This paper draws on earlier research, a national review of Scottish SEA practice and a survey of practitioners and stakeholders engaged in SEA and spatial planning in one Scottish city-region, to explore claims being made in the academic literature for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as a tool for deliberative plan-making. We consider whether there is evidence that Scottish SEA practice is helping create more inclusive plan-making processes in light of recent legislative changes, thereby fulfilling one of the expectations of Scottish Government. The macro analysis found that although there are opportunities for stakeholders to engage in the Scottish SEA process the level in practice is extremely low, a finding which mirrors experience in England and elsewhere. The more detailed micro analysis reveals a more nuanced picture within the spatial planning system, however, suggesting the existence of two distinct spheres of public conversations, one characterised by active dialogue about the environmental effects of alternative strategies amongst public sector stakeholders and the other involving non-governmental stakeholders and community groups in a much more limited way. The paper concludes with a discussion of possible explanations for this outcome, concerning asymmetric incentive structures and the application of power, and a consideration of the implications in relation to the competing discourses of SEA.
- Strategic environmental assessment
- Public participation
- deliberative policy making
- Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005