Sepa Is environmental regulation in Scotland failing?

Is environmental regulation in Scotland failing?

Is environmental regulation in Scotland failing? 6

Scotland is facing mounting environmental problems. Many of our species are in decline, habitats are suffering, and our biodiversity is among the most depleted in the world.

These problems could all become worse as the climate crisis intensifies. 

The Ferret has been exposing the companies and industries which have polluted Scotland for many years. We have also kept a beady eye on the Scottish Government agency meant to be keeping polluters in line, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa)

Sepa has often been criticised for not doing enough, and has faced a raft of difficulties in recent years. On top of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the victim of a serious cyber attack in December 2020, and lost its chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, in January 2022, following allegations of bullying and harassment.

Critics, both within and outwith Sepa, have begun to worry that the agency is losing its way, and that the environment is suffering as a result. When we revealed in July 2023 that Sepa had significantly cut its legal enforcement actions against polluters, those concerns grew.

Campaigners were alarmed that prosecutions, fines and other penalties for environmental rule-breakers had fallen dramatically in the last seven years. They accused Sepa of “turning a blind eye” to pollution.

Our readers asked us to find out more, and to hold Sepa to account. As Scotland’s investigative media cooperative, our journalism is shaped by the issues that affect our members. So we dug deeper into Sepa’s performance. 

Over this week – as part of an exclusive new Ferret series — we reveal our findings. 

We’ll look at Sepa’s record on tackling sewage pollution and whether it is failing in its legal duty to be transparent about the state of the environment. We’ll also examine long-term budget cuts which could be selling nature in Scotland short.

If you want us to do more of this impactful public interest journalism, you can become member today for just £5 per month:

The Ferret’s investigation into the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has been supported by the Environmental Funders Network, a UK-based network of foundations and donors supporting environmental causes. The Ferret maintains complete editorial control. 

If you want to find out more about how we fund our investigations, check out our transparency page.

1 comment
  1. It’s almost impossible to communicate with SEPA unless your query refers to something on their menu. They appear to continue to excuse this by reference to the cyber attack. I sent a letter to SEPA two years ago and have received nothing in response.

    They are meant to be beefing up their monitoring etc of fish farms. I’ll believe it when I see it.

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