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The effects of recent austerity on environmental protection decisions: Evidence and perspectives from Scotland

Vincent Onyango (University of Dundee, Dundee, UK)
Paola Gazzola (Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Geoffrey Wood (University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 27 June 2019

Issue publication date: 9 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to establish the evidence for, the why and how recent austerity policy atmosphere associated with the UK government affected environmental protection decisions within planning in Scotland.


A qualitative analysis based on perspectives gathered via questionnaire survey targeted at stakeholders involved in planning in Scotland was undertaken. The questionnaire responses were analysed thematically, supplemented by using statistical tests of significance and variance to show how responses differed across participants.


The evidence showed that austerity policy atmosphere resulted in a pervasive neoliberal imperative of resuscitating the economy; whilst producing subtle and adverse effects on environmental decisions. This was best understood within a neo-Gramscian perspective of hegemony, borrowed from the field of political economy of states.

Research limitations/implications

The gathered views were constrained within unknown biases that the participants may have had; and because the case study approach was not equipped to generalise the results beyond the study, more research testing cause-effect between the austerity and selected environmental parameters is needed, from various contexts.

Practical implications

Decision-making frameworks should explicitly acknowledge the unique pressures during austerity periods; and contemplate resilient decision-making frameworks that can withstand the hegemonic tendencies which prioritise economic goals above environmental ones.


Whilst the area of austerity’s impacts on the environment remains poorly evidenced, empirically, this seminal paper uses robust analysis to establish how the austerity policy atmosphere affects environmental decisions. This is insight into what may be happening in other similar situations outside Scotland, raising concern as to whether and how we should approach the challenge of hegemonic ideas.



Onyango, V., Gazzola, P. and Wood, G. (2019), "The effects of recent austerity on environmental protection decisions: Evidence and perspectives from Scotland", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 1218-1234.



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