River basin management demonstrates the increasing importance of active stakeholder involvement within environmental governance, whereby planning and implementation relies on outcomes from collective reasoned discussion. However, claims that stakeholder involvement improves environmental governance are rarely subject to critical examination. This lack of evaluation is problematic for several reasons including: lack of reflection on the purpose of involvement processes or their limitations; a poor conceptualisation of who should be defined as a stakeholder; how different knowledge claims should be treated; and how power relationships affect the process dynamics. This paper engages with the theoretical claims for active involvement and uses a Scottish case study to illustrate to what extent these claims were met during a river basin planning process. The evaluation highlights lessons for policy makers designing river basin management plans, particularly in the context of the pressing timetable for the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive. These lessons include how to maximise these benefits whilst proactively managing conflicts that occur, particularly when trying to sustain a coalition of individuals representing broader organisations and constituencies in a time-consuming and challenging process.

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