Unconventional oil and gas policy: SEA

Environmental report for the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of our preferred policy position on unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.

3 Relationship of Plans, Programmes and Strategies and Environmental Protection Objectives


3.1 This section of the Environmental Report provides a summary of the most relevant plans, programmes or strategies (including their environmental objectives) that influence the preferred policy position. A full review is included in Appendix 2.

The Policy Context

3.2 The preferred policy position on onshore unconventional oil and gas is relevant to the principal policy areas of energy and climate change and the planning system, and these are summarised below.

Energy and Climate Change

The Scottish Energy Strategy

3.3 The Scottish Energy Strategy (The Scottish Government, 2017) sits alongside the Climate Change Plan. Three key themes underpin the Strategy:

  • A whole-system view in which energy supply and consumption are seen as equal priorities;
  • A stable energy transition towards renewable energies and sustainable transport;
  • A smarter model of local energy provision which promotes local energy, community involvement and community ownership of energy generation.

3.4 The Strategy’s vision for 2050 is built around six priorities:

  • Promote consumer engagement and protect consumers from excessive or avoidable costs;
  • Improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes, buildings, industrial processes and manufacturing;
  • Ensure homes and businesses can continue to depend on secure, resilient and flexible energy supplies;
  • Empower communities by supporting innovative local energy systems and networks;
  • Champion Scotland’s renewable energy potential, creating new jobs and supply chain opportunities; and
  • Continue to support investment and innovation across our oil and gas sector, including exploration, innovation, subsea engineering, decommissioning and carbon capture and storage.

Climate Change (Scotland) Act

3.5 The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets statutory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and makes further provision about energy efficiency and about the reduction and recycling of waste. The Act sets an interim 42 per cent reduction target by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction target for 2050. A range of secondary legislation has been made under the Act, including setting annual emission reduction targets for the years to 2032 and limits on carbon units that may be credited to the net Scottish emissions account (the statutory basis upon which targets are set) for periods up to 2022.

Scotland’s Climate Change Plan

3.6 The Climate Change Plan: Third Report on Policies and Proposals (2018) details how the Scottish Government will achieve its current emissions reduction target over the period to 2032.

3.7 Section 35 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires Scottish Ministers to lay a report in Parliament setting out their proposals and policies for meeting annual emissions reduction targets. This Climate Change Plan (the Plan) is the Scottish Government’s third report on proposals and policies for meeting its climate change targets. It sets out how Scotland can deliver its targets over the period 2018 to 2032, towards the 2032 target which equates to a 66% reduction in emissions from baseline levels. The plan shows the emissions reductions pathway to 2032, addresses the impacts on the economy of both action and inaction and describes the Scottish Government’s international ambitions and activities.


3.8 The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act (1997), as amended, governs the use and development of land within Scotland. The Act forms the basis of the Scottish planning system. It sets out the roles of Scottish Ministers and designates local authorities as ‘planning authorities’ with a responsibility for producing local development plans and handling most aspects of development management and enforcement, including primary responsibility for the determination of planning applications.

3.9 The National Planning Framework 3 (2014) sets the context for development planning in Scotland and provides a framework for the spatial development of Scotland as a whole. It sets out the Scottish Government’s development priorities over the next 20-30 years and identifies national developments which support the spatial strategy. It is a long-term strategy to promote environmental sustainability, equality in opportunity, technological progress and human well-being and health. One of four key outcomes established through the framework is reducing carbon emissions and adapting to climate change. The Scottish Government will begin preparation of its National Planning Framework 4 following the passage of the Planning Bill through Parliament.

3.10 Scottish Planning Policy is a statement of Scottish Government policy on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country. In relation to promoting responsible extraction of resources it sets out a number of policy principles which include that the planning system should:

  • recognise the national benefit of indigenous coal, oil and gas production in maintaining a diverse energy mix and improving energy security;
  • safeguard workable resources and ensure that an adequate and steady supply is available to meet the needs of the construction, energy and other sectors;
  • minimise the impacts of extraction on local communities, the environment and the built and natural heritage; and
  • secure the sustainable restoration of sites to beneficial after use after working has ceased.

3.11 The Planning Bill proposes that in future the Scottish Planning Policy will form part of the National Planning Framework, which in turn would form part of the statutory development plan.

Scotland’s Regulatory Framework

3.12 Also relevant to the SEA of the preferred policy position is the regulatory framework for onshore oil and gas in Scotland. The regulatory framework supports the existing environmental protection regime for onshore oil and gas. In relation to unconventional oil and gas the core regulators include:

  • The Scottish Government: Scottish licensing authority with responsibility for:
    • the granting and regulation of licences to search and bore for and get petroleum within the Scottish onshore area;
    • determining the terms and conditions of licences; and
    • regulating the licensing process, including administration of existing licences.
  • The UK Government retains responsibility for the regulation, including setting, of the consideration payable (the land rental) for Scottish licences. In addition, the UK Government has powers to revoke a licence on the basis of failure to make payments due under the licence.
  • The Oil and Gas Authority: undertakes role of regulator in respect of the UK Government responsibilities above.
  • Local Authority / Planning Authority: consider planning applications for development associated with unconventional oil and gas and local authorities have responsibility for Environmental Health matters.
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency: regulates activities that may cause pollution or that pose other risks to the environment throughout the life cycle of an unconventional oil and gas development.
  • Health and Safety Executive: regulates to ensure the operator is managing the health and safety risks appropriately throughout the life cycle of an unconventional oil and gas development.

Further to the above:

  • Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is the statutory advisor to the Scottish and UK Governments on Scotland’s nature and landscapes. It is a statutory consultee for oil and gas related SEAs, EIAs, Habitats Regulations Appraisals, Marine Licences, and for any proposals that could affect European Protected Species.
  • Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has a statutory role in the planning system to provide advice on the potential impacts of development on the historic environment. HES also performs statutory functions relating to various consenting processes including listed building consent, conservation area consent and scheduled monument consent, and is a statutory consultee for EIA.
  • Any activity which intersects, disturbs or enters coal seams requires prior written authorisation from the Coal Authority.

3.13 The role of regulatory controls is incorporated in the assessment chapters. On the basis of current legislation, applicants for onshore petroleum licences are required to prepare an Environmental Awareness Statement as part of their application to the Licensing Authority. There are three sections required for the Environmental Awareness Statement: legislative awareness, awareness of the specific environmental concerns of the area and proposed mitigation measures for identified hazards.


Email: Onshore Oil and Gas Team

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