Nigel’s Notes - Unhelpful comments about SEPA

I was very surprised last week to hear that Richard Baker MSP had resigned and was taking up another job at short notice.

I would like to pay tribute to Richard’s contribution to the Scottish Parliament. It has been a pleasure working with Richard over the past nine years. Unlike some of his colleagues on the Labour benches Richard has always preferred facts to rhetoric. He was also willing and able to contribute to my Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee where he took the time to understand the technicalities and the detail.

Whilst the widespread flooding has now receded I’d like to address some of the issues around what happens next and who does what.

Firstly if you have suffered damage the contact email address for people to use to send details to the council to access funding of £1,500 is at: floodrelief@aberdeenshire.gov.uk. The council is asking people to email details including their full name and/or business name, postal address and daytime contact number. Residents/businesses will then be contacted once the fund is up and running.

Secondly, and coincidentally, the Scottish government has published its flood action plan. This follows a nationwide analysis of the risks from both river and sea flooding, and it specifically recognises the need for flood protection in Stonehaven, and more widely across the North East. The action plan follows the Flood Risk Management Act 2009 and it is part of the statutory process of ensuring that expenditure and effort are properly prioritised. The Scottish Government has committed to providing the necessary funding, over £200 million, over the next few years.

There have been some unhelpful comments about the funding of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) made by politicians who really ought to know better, who have suggested that a small cut in its budget will affect flood protection. SEPA is not responsible for either designing or funding flood schemes; this work is the responsibility of the local authority.

SEPA’s role is to make sure that the environment and human health are protected, that we use our natural resources and services as sustainably as possible, and to contribute to sustainable economic growth. They implement Scottish, UK and European legislation, issuing licences to industry in order to control pollution and prevent environmental damage. They work with the regulated industries to ensure they understand their environmental responsibilities and are complying with their licences, and with other public bodies; such as Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Border Force, to address the problem of environmental crime.

In contrast Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which is also funded by the Scottish Government, is more of a science based advisory body. Its purpose is to secure the conservation and enhancement of nature and landscapes; foster understanding and facilitate enjoyment of nature and landscapes; and advise on the sustainable use and management of nature and landscapes. They work in partnership, by cooperation, negotiation and consensus, with all relevant interests in Scotland, including public, private and voluntary organisations and individuals.

Between them SEPA and SNH are trying to protect our wonderful natural environment.

As someone who routinely takes his holidays in Scotland I am very grateful for their efforts and successes.