THE Scottish Executive will announce the new board of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency this morning and is set to offend public opinion in the Highlands and Islands in the process.

It is understood none of the six names to be announced, nor the existing six members who will be re-appointed, will come from north of the Highland Line and only three will be elected councillors.

Aberdeenshire councillor Bill Howatson will be the closest the Highlands and Islands will come to having a representative on the new Sepa board. Fife councillor Susan Clark and Mr Cormick McChord, leader of Stirling District Council, are the other elected members.

Former Labour MEP Ken Collins will chair the board and Scottish Consumer Council chairwoman Deirdre Hutton, who also used to chair Rural Forum before its financial demise, will be the new Sepa vice-chair.

Professor Brian Clark of Aberdeen University; retired local government official Stanley Dagg; former Strathclyde region's director of social work Fred Edwards, who is president of Volunteer Scotland; Mr Bill Furness, who chairs the Scottish Water and Sewage Customers' Council; Mr David Hughes Hallett, the former chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust; former managing director of Dawson International Nick Kuenssberg; and Sepa director Alasdair Paton will make up the rest of the board.

The vice-convener of Highland Council, Sutherland councillor Alison Magee, had been a member of both Sepa's north board and its main board. The decision not to reappoint her was the focus of anger last night.

It follows other public appointments which have caused concern in the north recently. Local authority leaders in the Highlands and Islands were angered when no applicant from the area was interviewed for the position of chairman of ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne, despite at least two high-profile public figures having applied. The civil-servant dominated selection panel gave the job to former Scottish Office civil servant Harold Mills.

Highland Council also recently lost two representatives from North of Scotland Water Authority.

A Sepa spokeswoman said she could make no comment until the official announcement was made.

However, Kyle of Lochalsh councillor Bill Fulton, who chairs Highland Council's protective services committee and who has himself served on the Sepa north board, said last night the news strengthened the impression the Government was ignoring the views and issues that affect people in the Highlands and Islands: ''It doesn't really surprise me that Alison Magee has not been re-appointed.

''She is an intelligent woman and has too often been the one to ask awkward questions when Sepa was planning to do things which were to the detriment of the Highlands and Islands.''

The Labour group leader on the council, Mr Clive Goodman, meanwhile, shared Mr Fulton's dissatisfaction: ''If this is true, it is extremely disappointing. We are one of the largest areas in Scotland and I will be making my protest at the earliest opportunity. I am not in favour of quangos. If we cannot abolish them, we should democratise them by having more elected representatives on them.''

Scottish Crofters' Union president, Mr John MacKintosh, said: ''We are disappointed it appears there is no-one with a first-hand knowledge of the problems of disposal of chemical and biological waste in an area like the Highlands and Islands, where we have shallow soils and topography that makes disposal difficult. Surely an area like this should have at least one representative on this board.''

Pollution fears

international policy designed to protect people and the environment against radioactive contamination may be flawed as it may be ignoring hidden dangers for flora and fauna, it emerged yesterday, writes Brian Donnelly.

A conference in Edinburgh, organised by Sepa and centring on the effects of radiation on the Arctic, was told that scientists are now concerned that effects of radiation contamination in the environment that were previously thought safe may be passed on to humans.

Delegates heard that scientists and environmental agencies around the world are now formulating a new method of monitoring long-term environmental impact of contamination.