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Just the Usual Suspects? Partnerships and Environmental Regulation


  • Kirsty L Sherlock

    (Socio-Economics Research Programme, Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, Scotland)

  • Elizabeth A Kirk

    (Department of Law, University of Dundee, Perth Road, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland)

  • Alison D Reeves

    (Department of Geography, University of Dundee, Perth Road, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland)


Governance based on partnerships has become a characteristic of late capitalist societies. This paper explores how this new collaborative approach to environmental regulation creates challenges for existing technocratic policy networks, drawing on an organisational ethnography of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Our findings suggest partnership working is embraced for four reasons—to improve understanding of problems, to develop resource-efficient management solutions, to improve implementation of these solutions, and to improve communication and trust within the policy network. However, there appear to be three areas of difficulty. First, decisionmaking appears to be dominated by technocratic public servants; second, practical reasons for partnership, rather than embracing the normative arguments for discursive democracy, motivate most participants; and, third, participants are yet to experience the benefits of partnerships. We suggest three key areas which might address these problems and contribute towards a more successful implementation of the collaborative approach to regulation, namely to provide incentives for partnership working (demonstrating how the perceived benefits outweigh costs), developing interorganisational trust and providing organisational support (resources). We conclude with an analysis of the constraints that must be overcome to develop effective partnerships for environmental management, particularly the need to extend the network beyond the ‘usual suspects' and to embrace the normative dimensions of participatory democracy.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirsty L Sherlock & Elizabeth A Kirk & Alison D Reeves, 2004. "Just the Usual Suspects? Partnerships and Environmental Regulation," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 22(5), pages 651-666, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envirc:v:22:y:2004:i:5:p:651-666

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