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  • 26 July 2022

Board meeting - 26 July 2022

The one hundred and eighty-first meeting of the Agency Board took place on Tuesday 26 July 2022 at 1.00pm in the Boardroom, Angus Smith Building, 6 Parklands Avenue, Eurocentral, Holytown, ML1 4WQ.


  • Bob Downes (Chair)
  • Nicky Chambers
  • Fran van Dijk
  • Nicola Gordon
  • Martin Hill
  • Craig Hume
  • Julie Hutchison
  • Harpreet Kohli

In attendance

  • Donna Brodie - Temporary Business Strategy Manager (items 8.1, 20 and 21 only)
  • Ian Buchanan - Chief Officer, Compliance and Beyond (offline on Regulatory Reform and Build Programme)(items 1-21)
  • Lin Bunten - Acting Chief Officer, Compliance and Beyond (items 1-21)
  • Nathan Critchlow-Watton - Senior Manager (item 11 only)
  • Kieron Gallagher - Head of Governance, sub for Bridget Marshall Acting Chief Officer, Green Economy (items 1-21)
  • Jo Green - Acting Chief Executive
  • Martin Grey - Head of Communications and Marketing (items 1-21)
  • Janine Hensman - Unit Manager (item 11 only)
  • Martin Marsden - Head of Environmental Quality, sub for David Pirie, Executive Director, Evidence and Flooding (items 1-21)
  • Stuart McGregor - Chief Officer, Finance (items 1-21)
  • Jennifer McWhirter - Clerk to the Board
  • Janice Milne - Head of Energy, sub for David Harley, Acting Chief Officer, Circular Economy (items 1-21)
  • Mike Montague - Specialist II (item 18 only)
  • David Morgan - Unit Manager Sustainable Procurement (item 9 only)

Safe SEPA @ Board

The Clerk to the Board advised of the housekeeping arrangements highlighting that there is no fire alarm test scheduled for today. If the alarm goes please use the fire exit located on the main landing to the right. Assembly points A and B are situated at the rear of the building at the back of the car park, Both signs are clearly marked. Toilets are on this floor passed the kitchen area into the stairwell at either side of the

1. Chair's opening remarks

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. He welcomed Martin Grey, Martin Marsden in attendance as the sub for David Pirie, Janice Milne as the sub for David Harley and Kieron Gallagher as the sub for Bridget Marshall. Unfortunately, John Kenny’s sub cannot attend. Suzanne Hutton is assisting the Clerk to the Board.

The Chair confirmed that 10 minute breaks had been scheduled after item 9 and before the private session.

The Chair welcomed Alison Baker and Dr Lorraine Hawkinsin attendance as members of the public observing the Agency Board meeting. 

2. Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were received from Vinay Mulgundmath, Philip Matthews, David Pirie, David Harley, Bridget Marshall and John Kenny.

3. Order of business

The order of business was as outlined on the agenda.

4. Declaration of Interests

No declaration of interests were made.

No AOB was raised.

5. Approval of minutes of meeting held on 24 May 2022

The minutes of the meeting held on 24 May 2022 were approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

6. Matters Arising

The Clerk to the Board provided an update. She advised that:

Action 713 - Chief Executive’s Report (SEPA 19/22)

Update: The Voluntary Severance Audit Terms of Reference were discussed at the Audit Committee meeting on 28 June 2022 where it was acknowledged that the audit is on process and assurance with the criticality of roles feeding into the workplan being discussed at the People Committee. Once AMT have discussed, the plan for VS over the next few years, in the Autumn updates will be given in the appropriate forums. The Voluntary Severance Audit report will be presented to the Audit Committee later in the year. Proposed closed.

Action 714 - Chief Executive’s Report (SEPA 19/22)

Update: This note has been added to Diligent Board. Proposed closed.

7. Chair's Report - verbal

The Chair advised that meetings had been taking place on site again. He then drew attention to a virtual meeting attended by the Acting Chief Executive with the Chair, Atholl Duncan and CEO, Tavish Scott of Salmon Scotland on 25 May 2022, with some items discussed being on the Board agenda today, item 19, it is also hoped that the Scottish Government position following the Griggs report will be concluded as soon as possible.

The Chair confirmed that he had attended an appraisal meeting with the Scottish Government Director of Environment & Forestry and that he would circulate his objectives once received. Chief Executive interviews took place on 13 and 14 June with a further meeting on 20 June 2022 – Nicole Paterson may join for some of the Board planning day on 7 September 2022.

He advised that he had attended a meeting with the Acting Chief Executive and Gordon Buist, Anna Graham and Ruth Piggin of the Scottish Whisky Association on 29 June 2022 all new people so new relationships are being developed. The discussion focused on the supply chain with concerns in respect of pressures on farmers and the fact that although there is a good compliance record the door was open for more innovation. He drew attention to meetings with the Acting Chief Executive and Scottish Water Chair, Dame Susan Rice and CEO, Douglas Millican on 27 June 2022 where the challenges on wastewater are understood and with Deborah Long of Scottish Environment LINK on 21 July 2022 where climate resilience, and biodiversity were discussed, noting it was good to exchange views. The Chair confirmed that with the Acting Chief Executive he had met Mark Tennant and Sarah Jane Laing of Scottish Land & Estates on 25 July 2022 where they raised concerns around policy on food production and climate change not being aligned and the perverse incentives on decarbonisation. He highlighted that he always asks at meetings for views on SEPA and confirmed that the majority are positive.

He advised that Board appraisals have been completed and that the agenda for the Board planning day on 7 September 2022 is shaping up with the focus going to be on – the Annual Operating Plan (AOP) and what the Board feel are priorities, issues around culture and the leadership of the organisation going forward and a broader piece on climate change and biodiversity being led by Fran van Dijk and Nicky Chambers, highlighting that the Board need to spend more time on strategy. Fran van Dijk asked that time be included for a discussion on the maximisation of Board time to bring the full Board up to speed.

The Board noted the update.

8. Management Report

8.1 Chief Executive's Report (SEPA 27/22)

Chief Executive's Report (SEPA 27/22)

The Acting Chief Executive highlighted that more offices are now open then asked Agency Management Team (AMT) colleagues to highlight any updates in their areas.

Ian Buchanan drew attention to the fly tipping conviction and the link into the seminar session in May 2022 where Colin Hershaw alluded to a case, confirming that this is it. He advised that it highlighted the benefits of partnership working where mutual objectives were delivered.

The Board suggested that there may be an opportunity in respect of section 3.4 and joining the dots between the equality goals to 2026 and a tangible example for outcome one with the new mentoring programme – women in flood risk management.

In response to a question about the size of the Water Environment Fund (WEF) budget going forward and whether we can learn and do 80% of the work for much less if funds are restricted, the Acting Chief Executive referred to being more efficient or using other funding while Martin Marsden confirmed that it is an expensive type of work. We could let time do it for example if we remove barriers improvements naturally happen over time but not so much in urban areas. The Acting Chief Executive drew attention to examples where WEF has been part of the funding, with Stane Gardens for the Commonwealth Games and highlighted that River Basin Management Planning (RBMP) is a key priority for Scottish Government.

In response to a question about Emergency Planning (section 4.5) and whether any systemic issues had been raised, Kieron Gallagher advised that this is external statutory testing. He confirmed that further detail can be provided.

Action: Kieron Gallagher

In response to a question about more opportunities for joint session (section 2.13), Ian Buchanan advised that there will be with the sector approach, highlighting that the forestry investment had involved upfront engagement at the start rather than regulation at the back end. We will do more over the next months and years.

The Board noted the report

8.2 Quarter 1 Financial Monitoring Report (SEPA 28/22)

Quarter 1 Financial Monitoring Report (SEPA 28/22)

Stuart McGregor introduced the report drawing attention to the fact that it was to the end of May 2022 which had been agreed previously. He highlighted key aspects of the report advising that a watching brief is being kept on additional spend and pressures, and that billing will begin this week highlighting the £12.5 million charging income. He drew attention to note 3 advising that we are currently forecasting more than we have budget for but are working closely with portfolio managers. There is training on using Agresso for all managers. The Acting Chief Executive advised that the AOP is set at a high level and that there will be an opportunity for the Board to discuss it further on 7 September 2022.

In response to a question about the risk of not having sufficient staff in the Finance team, Stuart McGregor advised that the Deputy Head of Finance started in post on 18 July 2022, but that there is a management accountant post we are struggling to recruit to due to its temporary nature, covering long term sickness absence. In respect of procurement, the Head of Sustainable Procurement is moving to a new post within the organisation with the post being offered as an opportunity to others in the team for three months while longer term options are considered. In respect of the Agresso vacancy we are able to utilise external cover in the interim and have gone through Job

Evaluation to recruit longer term. He concluded by highlighting that a trainee role is also currently being considered. The Acting Chief Executive advised that interviews for the Chief Officer Finance post are taking place tomorrow, 27 July 2022. In response to a follow up question in respect of a more general issue post COVID and cyber around turnover of staff and the impact on organisational memory pre COVID and cyber recognising that we are building back better but that this sometimes requires knowledge of what went before, Stuart McGregor advised that it is not a big issue but that budget holders are getting refresher training. The Acting Chief Executive advised that we do not have that high a level of turnover.

The Board noted the report

9. Procurement Update (SEPA 33/22)

Procurement Update (SEPA 33/22)

Stuart McGregor introduced the report with David Morgan in attendance. He advised that it follows on from the December 2021 update to the Board, where interest had been expressed in getting a better understanding of contracts.

David Morgan advised that procurement are able to get a real understanding of how different departments in the organisation work which helped in the cyber-attack response and recovery work. He highlighted that the discussion in December 2021 focused on how to improve value for money and best value for SEPA. We have made a lot of improvements with some further work to do around understanding supply chains. He drew attention to the spend analysis within the paper and the big strides in supporting regenerative SEPA including supply chains and their impact highlighting areas such as sampling and construction. There has been a lot of focus on capturing outcomes. David Morgan spoke to the paper drawing attention to - the development of a phase 2 Environment Protection Agency; managing compounding risks including COVID, Ukraine, inflation and supply chain distribution; and the progress to be made in working with regulated businesses over the next few years. He highlighted that the spend last year was unusual and that with no finance system in the last few months of financial year 2020/21 there was a delay in spend around when money left the bank therefore inflated figures. David Morgan highlighted the work to do going forward supporting the breadth of contract managers, moving to self-service, and around governance of higher value contracts with a paper on this going to AMT in the next three to four weeks.

The Board congratulated David Morgan on his new role and acknowledged that what he had achieved was a case study for how things could be done.

In response to a question on the likeliness of having to curtail the capital programme, David Morgan advise that it is very focused on the current financial year and has been historically which worked well but has been a challenge due to supply chain issues. We moved quickly on the programme this year and should be in a position where we can fully commit. In future we should not over commit but mobilise enough so that we can delay or slow things down if we are heading to an over commitment. This is a better position to be in than chasing supplies.

In response to a question around the use of construction and civil engineering and whether it is wider than the WEF work (section 3.1), David Morgan advised that WEF are the biggest area, and that planning work is being undertaken with them. Scottish Government have asked us to get involved in other areas, but this requires a very specific skillset and can be complex. Ian Buchanan highlighted Tarbolton as an example.

In response to a question about efficient procurement but also recognising that as a national organisation with a local base there is a local economy to support and the challenges here, David Morgan advised that there can be tension. Procurement Regulations have not changed in Scotland post Brexit whereas there have been substantial changes in the rest of the UK. Any major contracts have to be transparent about the location of a supplier. Smaller contracts can seek quotes from local suppliers. The procurement strategy needs to be appraised and the economies of scale verses SME’s weighed up. He drew attention to the increased supported business spend – where more than 50% of employees are disabled or disadvantaged - and advised that we can encourage bigger contractors to subcontract locally. There is a balance to be struck but we need to do what is right for the organisation first.

The Board noted the report

10. Calendar of Meetings for 2023 (SEPA 25/22)

2023 Calendar of Board meetings (SEPA 25/22)

The Clerk to the Board introduced the report and highlighted a proposal to change the Board training day from 25 January 2023 to 18 January 2023.

The Chair drew attention to the work being undertaken by Fran van Dijk as Deputy Chair around how we use out time as a Board with input from Nicola Gordon as Chair of the Audit Committee, the Acting Chief Executive, and the Clerk to the Board. Further discussion will take place on 7 September 2022 including around making workshops virtual and having meetings of shorter duration on specifics subjects. The September 2023 Audit Committee date is being looked at to allow sufficient time between Audit and Agency Board meetings.

The Board approved the report subject to confirmation of the January 2023 being agreed out with the meeting.

11. Water Scarcity (SEPA 31/22)

Water Scarcity (SEPA 31/22)

Martin Marsden introduced the item with Nathan Critchlow-Watton and Janine Hensman in attendance.

Janine Hensman provided examples of what is happening elsewhere in the world including in Spain and Portugal. She provided detail on the current situation, what we are doing now and what actions we plan to take recognising the impacts. She highlighted the weekly water scarcity report published by SEPA every Thursday and advised that it had been the driest January since 1940.

Nathan Critchlow-Watton provided an update on the Regulatory approach, advising that the situation is being continually assessed and highlighting that last year we phoned approximately five hundred abstractors. He gave examples of the work being undertaken and confirmed that SEPA’s Emergency Management Team had met last week, chaired by Lin Bunten. He explained what was meant by ‘significant’ water scarcity and described actions concluding with a summary of the situation and confirming that following the water resources consultation the intention is to come to the Board in the Autumn.

In response to a question about whether this was now the norm, Nathan Critchlow-Watton advised that there has been water scarcity every year since 2018 and that it is anticipated that the group is set up in February/March.

In response to a question about consumer behaviours and communications, Nathan Critchlow-Watton confirmed that Scottish Water do a lot of communication around reducing water usage which we support and try and highlight.

The Board discussed the language used querying that moderate does not seem very high. Nathan Critchlow-Watton advised that it is targeted at business who have abstraction licences, that there is no legislative requirement to use specific language and confirmed that we will check to ensure it still works.

Action: David Harley

The Board commented on the ongoing Board level discussions with organisations such as NFUS and Scottish Whisky Association and queried whether these are also happening at an operational level. Nathan Critchlow-Watton advised that there is more to be done and that this is linked to the water resources consultation.

In response to a question about the dryness of land and wild fires and the role of fire and rescue, the Acting Chief Executive advised that we are well plugged into resilience and emergency arrangements in Scotland through our civil contingency duties. Water is a resource, with the environment being impacted. Wildfires link to air quality and also impacts blue/green algae so there are a number of areas SEPA is involved in.

The Board discussed adaptation in agriculture including new breeds of crops resilient to water scarcity and commented on the need to scenario plan to ensure we measure the impact of interventions. Nathan Critchlow-Watton advised that there is a map of likely scenarios to 2050.

The Board thanked Nathan Critchlow-Watton and Janine Hensman and noted that they would see the actions coming out of the consultation later this year.

The Board noted the report.

12. Board Work Programme

12.1 Report on Board Seminar 26 July 2022

The Clerk to the Board advised that there had been two Board seminar sessions that morning. The first with Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) where we were joined by Mark Roberts, Chief Executive and Neil Langhorn, Head of Strategy & Analysis who provided background detail on who ESS is and its role including its function, duties, and powers to issue – information notices, compliance notices, improvement reports and applications for judicial review. They highlighted that they are currently consulting on their strategic plan which closes on 17 August 2022 and is going for Parliamentary approval on 1 October 2022 drawing attention to the vision, mission and values and provided detail on their four strategic outcomes.

The second session was on COVID wastewater treatment with a presentation on why we are doing it and how the work will likely develop including a live demo on the data visualisation tool. The Board then spilt into two groups for a lab tour, with a demonstration of samples being processed in both the waste water treatment and the microbiology labs. The Board had the opportunity to ask questions and noted that resources and priorities need to be considered.

The Board thanked all those involved in the seminar sessions.

12.2 Board Member Engagement

Craig Hume advised that he and Nicola Gordon had attended a visit to Ayr beach and that the passion in the team was clear to see. The member of staff gave real insight into her day - this is the real voice of SEPA we need to communicate as hearing people talk about what they do is great.

The Board noted the update.

12.3 Board Buddy Register

The Clerk to the Board advised that the only update to the register was that Nicky Chambers is no longer a Board Buddy for Environmental Standards Scotland and that this project has moved to the hold tab.

The Board noted the update.

13. Board Committee Reports

13.1 Audit Committee draft minute of meeting held on 28 June 2022

The Chair of the Audit Committee advised that an Audit workshop was taking place on 29 July 2022 focusing on the Committees role in respect of Finance and how risk is managed, and assurance sought.

The Board noted the report.

13.2 Annual Performance Report - Audit Committee (SEPA 26/22)

Nicola Gordon as Chair of the Audit Committee introduced the report.

The Board noted the report.

13.3 People Committee Update

Martin Hill as Chair of the People Committee advised that a meeting had taken place on 6 June 2022 including a conduct and culture update and a discussion on the AOP and the importance of readiness and preparedness. He drew attention to discussion on the surveys being undertaken to take the temperature of the organisation and the health and wellbeing of staff following COVID, cyber and working from home. He highlighted that the work plan and priorities is being discussed at the next meeting in August 2022 and that Unison are attending for an item to give their perspective. Feedback will also be provided on the Listening Exercise with an initial touch point with the Committee planned for 29 July 2022.

The Board noted the update.

14. Action Note

The Clerk to the Board provided an update to the action note

Action 649
Update: A full report will go to the Board when the actions are complete. Ongoing.

Action 678
Update: A Strategy Board session on decarbonisation is being planned for no later than October 2022. Ongoing.

Action 684
Update: A seminar session will be planned for later this year. Ongoing.

Action 693
Update: A verbal update is planned for the 26 July Board meeting. Proposed closed.

Action 702
Update: The Model Code of Conduct is on the agenda for the Agency Board meeting on 26 April 2022 with training planned for a Board seminar session after this. The Clerk to the Board is contacting the Standards Commission to check whether they offer training. This will be a seminar session in October or November 2022. Ongoing.

Action 703
Update: We are looking at how we can raise awareness of Board members, meetings and published papers on social media. Proposed closed.

The Board asked that the youth engagement part of the action remain open. Ongoing.

Action 710
Update: This report is likely to be published in September, the Board will be notified when the report is published. Proposed closed.

15. Any other business

No other business was raised.

16. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on 27 September 2022 virtually via MS Teams.

The following items were considered by Board members and Officers in a private session.

17. Customer Service Complaints Reporting - Annual Report 2021-2022 (SEPA 24/22) - The Board noted the report.

18. Sealice Update (SEPA 32/22) - The Board noted the update.

19. Financial Monitoring Report Ending 31st May 2022 - Analysis of Financial Risks (SEPA 29/22) - The Board noted the report.

20. Consideration of New Risks (SEPA 30/22) - The Board discussed the risks that had arisen.

21. Corporate Plan - verbal - The Board noted the update.

The following item was considered by Board Members only.

22. Conduct and Culture - verbal