Nicole Paterson will take the reins at SEPA in October. Photo: SEPA.
Nicole Paterson will take the reins at SEPA in October. Photo: SEPA.

SEPA names new chief executive

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which plays a key role in regulating aquaculture, has named experienced local government officer Nicole Paterson as its new chief executive.

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Former SEPA boss Terry A’Hearn resigned in January following allegations about his conduct and SEPA chief officer Jo Green has acting CEO since then.

Paterson, who joins the agency in October, is an award-winning local government chief officer, with nearly 30 years’ experience across five local authorities, consultancy, and environmental non-executive roles.

She joins from North Lanarkshire Council, Scotland’s fourth largest local authority, where she was head of environmental assets.

Paterson previously spent more than 14 years at Stirling Council leading strategic environmental and infrastructure programmes and has worked across West Lothian, East Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute Councils.

A chartered civil engineer and University of Strathclyde graduate, she began her local government career as a civil/structural engineer within Argyll & Bute’s roads and transport service.

“Scotland’s stunning environment, its lochs, and its land, are world-renowned, and being trusted to protect them for future generations, while supporting our nation to adapt to a changing climate, is a privilege,” said Paterson in a press release. 

“Protecting our environment, inclusion, wellbeing and supporting sustainable growth are not only key to my personal and professional beliefs, they’re at the heart of SEPA’s statutory purpose. They’re fundamental to SEPA’s One Planet Prosperity strategy and the work that its people deliver each and every day in communities the length and breadth of our country.

“Across my career, from working with the Board of Climate Ready Clyde to Argyll and Bute Council, I’ve been constantly inspired by SEPA’s role in improving Scotland’s environment, its commitment to collaboration and the professionalism and commitment of its people. Over the coming months I look forward to visiting, meeting with and listening to people, partners and stakeholders across the country as together we deliver for Scotland’s environment.”

An energetic leader

SEPA chair Bob Downes said: “We’ve got a great team of multi-skilled professionals dedicated to our rich and diverse environment.

“They deserve the very best leadership and I’m delighted that in Nicole, we’ve found an optimistic, energetic leader who’s as passionate about Scotland’s environment, our statutory purpose and delivering modern, effective, and essential public services as we are. But more than that, we’ve found in Nicole an open, supportive, and motivational leader committed to collaboration, outcomes, excellence and building an agency reflective of the country we serve.”

Aquaculture regulation

If Paterson’s commitment to collaboration extends beyond staff issues, it might benefit Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon’s attempts to streamline aquaculture regulation.

Gougeon has created and chairs the Scottish Aquaculture Council, which aims to foster more cooperation between government agencies, planning authorities and salmon farmers in order to speed up fish farm applications.

The Council is the result of a Scottish Government-commissioned report by regulatory expert Professor Russel Griggs, who wrote that wrote that the degree of mistrust, dislike, and vitriol at both an institutional and personal level between the industry (mainly finfish), certain regulators, parts of the Scottish Government and other stakeholders is at a level he had never seen before.

SEPA is raising its charges to fish farmers sevenfold from September, and is also looking at new, stricter limits on the number of sea lice in fish farms.