Path dependency and the implementation of environmental regulation

Elizabeth A. Kirk, Alison D. Reeves, Kirsty L. Blackstock

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Citations (Scopus)


    The authors examine the implementation of environmental regulation and demonstrate that path dependency, created largely by resource constraints, narrows the range of options for implementing regulation. It also magnifies the impact of the institutional history of the regulatory body and the impact of the disciplinary commitments of those working within the regulatory body on the implementation process. It is shown that the result is that those involved in the implementation process are unable to consider all possible routes to implementation but, rather, only a relatively few ‘manageable’ options for the regulation of particular activities. The arguments are examined in the context of implementation of the Water Framework Directive 2000 (WFD) in Scotland. In particular the authors focus on the regulation of diffuse pollution under the WFD and on the role played by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in that regulation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)250-268
    Number of pages19
    JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Environmental regulation
    • Water Framework Directive (WFD)
    • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
    • SEPA


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