The different ways in which its territorial jurisdictions have chosen to apply the European Union's (EU's) Directive on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) to their public sector policies, plans and programmes (PPPs) suggest that the United Kingdom (UK) continues to be uncertain about the theoretical rationale for this technique. In order to evaluate the analytical significance of these alternative interpretations, their methodological foundations need to be examined. Baseline-led approaches to SEA which are intended to operationalise sustainability can be shown to place unrealistic expectations on instrumental rationality. Objectives-led policy appraisal makes SEA contingent on whatever particular social construction of sustainable development holds sway. These expert-driven approaches contrast with a reflexive interpretation of environmental governance, in which SEA helps to expose the conflictual nature of public actions claiming to deliver sustainability, and offers stakeholders increased opportunities to challenge these. The approach adopted in Scotland, in which SEA forms part of an agenda for environmental justice, is evaluated in the light of this critique. The Scottish Executive's eclectic legislation, which covers all its public sector PPPs, may offer a way of mediating between these competing interpretations of SEA.
- Strategic Environmental Assessment
- Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005
- Environmental justice
- European Union SEA directive