As part of the preparation or modification of plans, programmes and strategies, local authorities have been undertaking Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) since 21 July 2004. The process is regulated by the EU Directive 2001/42/EC, the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Scotland) Regulation 2004 and the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. SEA is the environmental assessment of plans, programmes or strategies. It seeks to provide high level protection to the environment; integrate the environment and sustainable development into planning processes; promote sustainable development; and promote a more open, transparent and evidenced-based planning culture.
SEA applies to the sectors of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, transportation, telecommunication, waste management, water management, industry, energy and land use. The main actions of the SEA processes include preparation of pre-screening or screening reports, scoping reports, environmental reports and post-adoption statements. SEA requires consultation with consultative authorities and the general public at varying degrees throughout the entire process. The statutory consultation authorities include Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Historic Scotland (HS).