Section 1 – Requirement for environmental assessment
5.Section 1 sets out the primary requirement of the Act which is to secure the carrying out of an environmental assessment during the preparation of a qualifying plan or programme. Section 4 identifies which plans and programmes are covered by the provisions of the Act, and section 4(4) provides that the phrase “plans or programmes” includes “strategies”. Section 1 also defines what constitutes an environmental assessment as the preparation of an environmental report, consultation and the taking into account of the report and the results of the consultations in the decision making process. Further provision on the report and consultation is made in sections 14 and 16 respectively.
6.Subsection (1) makes clear that the environmental assessment must be carried out before adoption or before submission to a legislative procedure for adoption of the plan or programme. It is anticipated that “Adoption” may be something as informal as deciding to act on the final plan or programme developed, or it may be more formal, for example, requiring approval under a statutory regime. The expression “submission for adoption through a legislative procedure” is derived from the European Directive 2001/42/EC and will take Directive meaning. It is understood to mean that the finalised plan or programme is submitted to the Scottish Parliament or other legislative body for endorsement. That body will then make the legislation necessary to allow the plan or programme to be carried out. Whether adopted through a legislative procedure, or in a less formal manner, it is intended that the environmental assessment be carried out before the plan or programme is finalised.
7.More than that, the environmental assessment should be carried out as an integral part of the plan and programme development and decision making process. This is implicit in the description of the environmental assessment given in subsection (2). Whilst the steps that form the parts of an assessment can be taken at any time before a plan or programme is adopted, it is expected that the assessment will be integrated into the early stages of the process. Environmental assessment can then be used to enhance the entire process and help to ensure that the best available outcome is achieved.