Publication - Agreement

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA): framework document

Published: 11 Dec 2014
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change

Sets out the broad framework within which SEPA will operate and defines key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between SEPA and the Scottish Government.

22 page PDF

333.5 kB

22 page PDF

333.5 kB

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA): framework document

22 page PDF

333.5 kB


1. This framework document has been drawn up by the Scottish Government ( SG) in consultation with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA). It sets out the broad framework within which SEPA will operate and defines key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between SEPA and the SG. While this document does not confer any legal powers or responsibilities, it forms a key part of the accountability and governance framework and is subject to approval by the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform and the Portfolio Accountable Officer ( PAO).

2. The document will be reviewed and updated, as necessary, and at least every 2-3 years.

3. Any proposals to amend the framework document either by the SG or SEPA will be taken forward in consultation and in the light of SG priorities and policy aims. Any question regarding the interpretation of the document shall be determined by the SG after consultation with SEPA.

4. Legislative provisions or Ministerial directions shall take precedence over any part of this document.

5. References to SEPA include any subsidiaries and joint ventures [1] owned or controlled by SEPA. SEPA shall not establish subsidiaries or enter into joint ventures without the express approval of the SG. If such a subsidiary or joint venture is created, there shall be a document setting out the arrangements between it and SEPA.

6. Six copies of the document shall be placed in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre ( SPICe). It shall also be published on the SG and SEPA websites.

SEPA's Purpose, Functions and Objectives

7. SEPA's purpose, as set out in the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, is to ensure that Scotland's environment is protected and improving, including ensuring that natural resources are managed in a sustainable way. In carrying out its functions for that purpose, SEPA must, except to the extent that it would be inconsistent with its purpose, contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland and to achieving sustainable economic growth.

8. In pursuing its purpose, SEPA shall contribute to the achievement of the SG's purpose of focussing Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth by aligning its outcomes, strategic objectives and values with the SG's published Economic Strategy and the National Performance Framework ( NPF).

9. SEPA's main statutory functions, duties and powers are set out in the Environment Act 1995.

10. Additional functions have also been given to SEPA under legislation enacted since its formation. SEPA shall ensure that these functions, duties and powers, and any other functions, duties and powers subsequently assigned to it, are performed in line with statutory requirements.

11. SEPA's main statutory functions include:

  • the regulation of activities or processes that may pollute water, air or land;
  • the regulation of waste storage, transport, treatment and disposal;
  • the regulation of keeping and disposing of radioactive materials;
  • running Scotland's flood warning systems;
  • participating as a statutory consultee to the planning system.

12. SEPA's other principal responsibilities include:

  • monitoring, analysing and reporting on the state of Scotland's environment;
  • helping implement the Zero Waste Strategy;
  • controlling, in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive, the risk of major accidents at industrial sites;
  • operating the Scottish component of the Radioactive Incident Monitoring Network;
  • providing advice to the SG in a variety of policy areas.

13. The status of SEPA's statutory functions set out under relevant legislation will take precedence over any summary included in this framework document.

14. SEPA's strategic objectives, as agreed by the Scottish Ministers, are set out in their updated Corporate Plan for 2012-17.

15. These strategic objectives support delivery of the following outcomes:

  • Scotland's environment is protected and improving;
  • Scotland's environment is understood and SEPA is an influential and respected authority;
  • Scotland is preparing for a sustainable future and is taking steps to limit climate change;
  • SEPA is a high performance organisation.

Relationship between Scottish Government and SEPA

16. Effective engagement between the SG and SEPA is essential in order that they work together as effectively as possible to maintain and improve public services and deliver improved outcomes. Both the SG and SEPA will take all necessary steps to ensure that their relationship is developed and supported in line with the jointly agreed principles set out in the statement on 'Strategic Engagement between the Scottish Government and Scotland's NDPBs''.