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Caithness News Bulletins October 2004

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Virtual Links For Green Watchdog At Thurso
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has installed new technology at its bases in the North of Scotland to help reduce its environmental impact. Video-conferencing units will enable staff in nine offices to 'meet' each other and connect to SEPA colleagues elsewhere in Scotland without the need for long journeys. The move will save time and travel costs as well as helping to reduce the agency's atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide and other 'greenhouse gases'.

SEPA Offices At Thurso Business Park

Tom Inglis, regulation manager for the North of Scotland, said: "Travel is an e ssential part of our job for investigating incidents and carrying out inspections. We also have to hold meetings, but the distances involved can make them a burden on staff and the organisation. We now have regular four-way video-conference meetings with staff in various offices.

Each meeting like this can save us hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds in travel, accommodation and staff time."

The SEPA offices in Aberdeen, Dingwall, Kirkwall, Lerwick and Stornoway have had video-conferencing for several years. Now Fraserburgh, Thurso, Elgin and Fort William also have the technology. This investment means that 16 of SEPA's offices nationally are now able to video-conference. Although the concept is not new, the quality and reliability of the equipment is now at a stage that makes it an attractive alternative to travel.

Derek McGregor, who co-ordinates the work to reduce SEPA's environmental impact, said: "Given our role in protecting the Scottish environment, it's important that we try to set a good example. Unfortunately, the realities of travel in the north mean that long journeys, often by air, are necessary.   Sometimes, face-to-face meetings will be the right option, but video-conferencing is now a great choice for routine discussions."

The move will also help SEPA develop the full potential of staff in the remoter offices who can now readily take part in training as well as policy and technical discussions which generally take place at SEPA's corporate office in Stirling.

The 24-hour emergency hotline number for reporting all environmental incidents relating to air, land and water in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.