4. Assessment of reasonable alternatives
Assessing reasonable alternatives in SEA
4.1 The assessment of 'reasonable alternatives' is a key element of the SEA process to meet the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.
4.2 A central facet of the SEA process to date has been the appraisal of 'reasonable alternatives' for the SBS & Delivery Plan. The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 is not prescriptive as to what constitutes a reasonable alternative, stating only that the Environmental Report should "identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing the plan…and reasonable alternatives to the plan… taking into account the objectives and geographical scope of the plan…"
4.3 In developing reasonable alternatives for the SEA, a central consideration has been with respect to the key policy choices being made for the SBS. In this regard this Environmental Report has assessed a range of options as reasonable alternatives, with a view to exploring the options with particular potential for significant environmental effects. These assessments are designed to inform plan makers and stakeholders on the relative sustainability merits of alternative approaches the SBS could take on various strategy and delivery plan issues.
Development of options to assess as reasonable alternatives
4.4 In developing options to assess through the SEA process, the SEA team engaged plan-makers and stakeholders to understand where the focus of alternatives assessment should be. To aid in these discussions, two workshops were undertaken with key stakeholders to discuss reasonable alternatives in the context of the SBS. The purpose of these workshops was to discuss what options can be assessed as reasonable alternatives for the SBS, in conjunction with the objectives, key issues, challenges and opportunities associated with the strategy and delivery plan elements of the SBS.
4.5 The first SEA workshop was undertaken in March 2022 for the SBS. At the workshop it was agreed to formulate a series of options which focus on the key overarching strategy-wide issues associated with the SBS. This recognised that the detailed components associated with the implementation of the plan would be later considered during the development of the subsequent Delivery Plan component of the SBS.
4.6 The second workshop, which was undertaken in March 2023, focussed on the potential options that could be assessed as reasonable alternatives for the Delivery Plan component of the SBS.
4.7 The options formulated through these workshops relate to the following:
- Options exploring whether an ecosystem or a 'flagship species' approach to the SBS should be taken to the SBS.
- Options to explore whether the restoration of specific ecosystems should be focussed on through the SBS.
- Options relating to the implementation of SBS, including the appropriateness of sector specific strategies or plans.
- Options to explore whether SBS Delivery Plan actions should have a shorter term or longer-term timeframe, including relating to the 2030 and 2045 targets for biodiversity.
4.8 The following chapter presents details of the options assessed and the reasoning behind their choice as reasonable alternatives. This is accompanied by an assessment of these options against the SEA Framework developed during scoping.
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