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Waste Management Plan for Scotland Regulations 2006

UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Executive Environment Group consultation on the draft Waste Management Plan for Scotland Regulations 2006

December 2006


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 160,000 members working in the Scottish Health Service, local government, utilities, further and higher education and other public sector providers, as well as in some of Scotland's largest private sector areas including energy. We also represent the majority of employees working within the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and have done since SEPA was established.

UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft National Waste Management Plan for Scotland Regulations 2006.

Transfer of duty to the Scottish Ministers

A key change introduced in the draft regulations is the transfer of the duty to prepare the National Waste Strategy from SEPA to the Scottish Ministers.

UNISON's response focuses on this aspect of the consultation and is set out in our answers to the two consultation questions.

Essentially, UNISON Scotland does not believe that any case has been made for a need to introduce this change and we would urge the Scottish Executive to reconsider.

Response by UNISON Scotland

1. Do consultees have any comments on the policy outlined in this paper and on the attached draft regulations?

UNISON Scotland's overall response is to ask:

  • Why change the existing position that SEPA is responsible for preparing the National Waste Strategy?

  • What evidence is there that transferring the duty to Ministers will be an improvement?

  • What evidence is there that the position has changed since 1995 when it was argued that the then Scottish Office would not have the staff to carry out the task?

It seems clear to UNISON that there is no case for the transfer, but we will respond more fully to this aspect of the consultation in our answer to Question 2, below.

On the rest of the paper and the draft regulations, UNISON welcomes the decision to leave SEPA with a major role in the areas of Waste Data, Land Use Planning, Area Waste Plans and Technical Advice so that the organisation can continue to support the Scottish Executive and Scottish Ministers.


2. Do consultees have any comments on the proposal to transfer the duty to prepare the National Waste Strategy from SEPA to the Scottish Ministers?

UNISON Scotland believes that decisions on the National Waste Strategy (NWS) must be based on environmental criteria rather than political or financial agendas. It should go without saying that sufficient staffing expertise is required to assess all relevant environmental criteria.

Similarly, it is essential that there is a strategic approach which looks at the long term. There is inevitably scepticism on the ground about whether the type of broad long term overview essential in this key policy area can be delivered within normal political timescales.

UNISON members also believe that if Ministers are given control over preparation of the NWS it will be difficult for local authorities to meet European Landfill Directives as the planning system (working currently on a five year rotation in Development Plan policies) will not be able to assume a presumption in favour of the development of waste management facilities. In addition, they argue that the private sector will be less willing to invest in the development of large scale waste management infrastructure within an uncertain planning system. Will Ministers make decisions on the environmental criteria or on the political/financial agenda? How will local authorities, business and the community sector be expected to plan for long term strategic waste management when changes in the political administration have the potential to significantly change the NWS every four years?

However, to return to UNISON's main concern, we have seen no evidence that the reasons why the duty for preparing the NWS was initially placed on SEPA are no longer applicable.

The reasons given by the government in the House of Lords in February 1995 were that:

"Unlike the Department of the Environment, the Scottish Office will not have the appropriate staff available to it to prepare a waste strategy for Scotland. SEPA, on the other hand, will be well placed to undertake that task, as it would be staffed in part by those expert staff who previously prepared plans for their local authorities."

Earl of Lindsay: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199495/ldhansrd/vo950209/text/50209-13.htm

No mention is made in the consultation document of whether the Scottish Executive is deemed now to have sufficient expert staff to take over the duty.

It is UNISON Scotland's view that the situation has not appreciably changed, that the Scottish Executive does not have the full complement of staff with waste management expertise to support Scottish Ministers in preparing the NWS. SEPA still possesses the bulk of the skills and resources to deliver the waste strategy. It has not been suggested that these resources be transferred to the Scottish Executive, nor that the resources are no longer needed. The fact that the strong skills base that SEPA has built up over the years is not reflected in the Scottish Executive is bound to affect delivery of key parts of the strategy, such as commercial and industrial wastes and household waste prevention.

UNISON is also concerned about the implications for 24 people currently employed within SEPA directly for Waste Strategy purposes. (This does not include administrative support, regional line management or national functions such as waste data and waste policy, which have strong integration with waste strategy.) If SEPA is no longer responsible for preparing the NWS, there is clearly concern about what these people will do, but SEPA senior management has not engaged with the team over this.

Paragraph 19 of the document refers to the Strategic Waste Fund. This was set up to finance implementation of the Area Waste Plans - and therefore the National Waste Plan, made up of all 11 AWPs. Local authorities are required to submit Outline Business Cases or Strategic Outline Cases to the Scottish Executive to justify their funding requests.

This paragraph does not reflect the large amount of assessment of the technical/waste aspects of Outline Business Cases and Strategic Outline Cases carried out by SEPA employees. The role of Scottish Executive staff has been largely to evaluate the financial elements of these cases.

It should also be noted that SEPA has conducted all the background work for consultations and action on policy issues taken forward by the Scottish Executive, on the sustainable management of waste from business and public sector organisations, household waste prevention and targets for public bodies on specifying recyclate in contracts. Yet this strong partnership working is not recognised in paragraph 19. And the fact this work has been undertaken by SEPA underlines the fact that the necessary staffing expertise is not in place at the Scottish Executive.

Finally, we would argue that the funding mechanism of the Strategic Waste Fund already places Scottish Ministers in control of the National Waste Plan, as they have the final say over whether or not business cases are funded. When they consider funding each individual AWP business case, they must take an overview of how this will affect the whole of Scotland's waste management infrastructure and not just the individual business case in isolation. It is debatable what additional benefit there will be in transferring the duty to prepare the NWS to the Scottish Ministers.


We do not believe that the Scottish Executive has demonstrated a case for the change and we urge Ministers to reconsider.

For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk



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