The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was established on 1st April 1996 under the provisions of the Environment Act 1995. SEPA has duties which include the following:


  • To control discharges to surface waters and groundwaters by the issue of legally binding consents;
  • To conserve water resources as far as possible;
  • To promote conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of controlled waters and associated flora and fauna.


  • To control atmospheric emissions from certain types of process, which are prescribed in Regulations, and which are expected to have a medium pollution risk by means of a legally binding 'authorisation';

Integrated Pollution Control

  • To control discharges (to land, air and water) from larger and more complex 'prescribed' processes through Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) authorisations;


Responsibilities for the management of waste in Scotland are shared by SEPA and local authorities. SEPA has specific duties to produce a national waste strategy and for the licensing of waste disposal sites.


To register the keeping and use of radioactive substances and to authorise disposal of radioactive waste from all users, including nuclear establishments in Scotland. SEPA undertakes environmental monitoring for radioactivity in Scotland.

SEPA's duties for water quality in the marine environment are to control discharges to surface waters (which include tidal waters out to the three-mile limit) by issuing discharge consents, to control prescribed processes through IPC authorisations and to authorise disposal of radioactive wastes.

Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SERAD)

The main responsibilities of the Department in relation to water quality in the marine environment are:

  1. Policy responsibility for the quality of the environment in Scotland;
  2. Licensing of the deposit of wastes and other substances at sea under Part II of the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) 1985;
  3. Statutory consultee in the consent setting process for discharges from pipelines to sea.

SERAD has policy responsibility for the quality of the marine environment and is the sponsoring department for SEPA. SEPA is responsible for decisions relating directly to water quality in the marine environment.

SERAD is the competent authority for the issue of licences under Part II FEPA 1985. The decision-making process is similar to that operated by MAFF.

SERAD is a statutory consultee for consent applications for discharges to tidal waters and is responsible for ensuring that fisheries interests and other genuine uses of the sea are not compromised.

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