Policy actions  1 of 4

Contaminated land

Scotland has areas of land contamination left behind from a time when little or no consideration was given to the impact of industrial activities on the environment.

We support local authorities to enforce the statutory regime for cleaning up historically contaminated land, and support the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to deal with 'special sites' and pollution of the water environment.

The Contaminated Land Advisory Group informs and advises us on land contamination matters and issues as they relate to Scotland.


The contaminated land regime is designed to:

  • protect human health and the environment
  • facilitate the re-use of brownfield sites
  • promote the regeneration of urban areas


The regime requires sites to be prioritised to ensure that those posing unacceptable risks are tackled first. This helps to bring polluted land back into beneficial use, especially in areas where commercial redevelopment is not likely to bring this about.

Polluter pays

The regime follows the polluter-pays principle, meaning those responsible for the land or the polluting activity are expected to pay for remediation wherever this is practical. Pollution from existing industrial sites is strictly controlled.


The amount of contaminated and polluted land in Scotland has been steadily decreasing as many high-value sites have been cleaned up as part of redevelopment projects. The regime builds on this progress by providing a route for remediation of sites of low development value, or where there are other barriers to redevelopment.


The statutory regime for cleaning up historically contaminated land came into force in July 2000.

Legislative provision for the regime was made in the Environment Act 1995 through a new Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The regime was established by The Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2000, which have since been amended by The Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2005.

Guidance is contained within Environmental Protection Act 1990 - Part IIA Contaminated Land: statutory guidance edition 2.

Radioactive contaminated land

The Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007 established a separate but closely related regime for radioactive contaminated land.

We have also published Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007: statutory guidance.

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