Since 2017 dawned the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has not exactly covered itself in glory.

It has proposed scrapping limits on the amount of salmon that can be farmed in cages around the coast. It has admitted asking industrial polluters to help hire senior pollution regulators, and top government officials to help choose senior Sepa managers. And as we report today, it has now been caught secretly considering plans for the world’s biggest salmon farm, which would create more sewage waste than Glasgow.

Sepa, let us not forget, is meant to protect us from pollution. But in recent times it almost seems more concerned to grease the wheels of industry rather than control its toxic effluent.

This is disturbing. As one former Sepa official told us, there’s a tricky balance between being close enough to industry to understand it, and getting too close. Being too close is a serious risk, and could fatally compromise Sepa’s independence.

Sepa is in the midst of a major overhaul of its regulatory arrangements, and like all public agencies, it is under budgetary pressure. We hope that there are no more industry-friendly compromises to be uncovered.

Sepa’s managers need to ensure that it effectively monitors and reports pollution, and forcefully reprimands offenders. It must be a lively and sharp-toothed watchdog, not a sleepy and soft-hearted poodle.

Scottish ministers, too, should ensure that their regulatory agency doesn’t grow flabby and weak. Scotland’s precious environment needs robust protection.