Skip to main content
Close Menu Open Menu

The manifestos: views from RTPI Scotland

Our election commentary continues with a view of the political parties’ manifestos from RTPI Scotland’s Director, Dr Caroline Brown.


Scottish party manifestos are awkward documents – partly concerned with the national (UK) political landscape, but also addressing devolved matters outwith the control of Westminster. It’s quite the guddle.

As might be expected, the SNP manifesto focusses on the relations between Holyrood and Westminster and the way in which SNP MPs will seek to influence the UK government in Scotland’s favour. For example arguing that there should be a better financial settlement for Scotland and further devolution of policy to the Scottish parliament in order to address specific issues. The manifestos of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives have a slightly different slant, setting out their priorities for Scotland, including coverage of devolved policy areas including planning.

Let’s have a look at how the parties have reflected our headline asks the RTPI issued in our Planifesto published last September.

Properly resourcing planning

A significant theme in the Scottish Labour manifesto is about resourcing within planning – and of course the Planifesto makes a strong case for investing in planning services. Scottish Labour say that they would create a national planning agency with expertise that local governments can draw on to supplement local departments. This proposal looks rather similar to the planning hub proposed in the recent (SNP) Scottish Government consultation on Investing in Planning. In line with that consultation, Scottish Labour also discuss planning fees, indicating that they would review them and allow councils to make a full cost recovery where deadlines are met. The Scottish Conservatives are less precise in this area, with an offer to give local councils a guaranteed amount from the Scottish Government budget as a way to boost local government resources.

Scottish Labour also discuss the pipeline of new planners needed to support the planning system – again covered in the Planifesto – embedding this into the skills system. Details of what that would involve are unclear.

Taking a spatial and strategic approach

Across the UK, the Labour party have been particularly clear about locating its GB Energy service in Scotland.

Of the three manifestos explored here, Scottish Labour says the most about planning and is the only one to discuss strategic planning issues. Their manifesto focusses on the planning of strategically important projects including infrastructure and enterprise zones. While the Scottish Conservatives say nothing about strategic planning, they emphasise their support for communities with funds for towns, plus new Freeports and Investment zones to create jobs.

Planning for Net Zero

Scotland’s energy sector – with the legacy of oil and gas, plus the growing renewables industry, feature heavily in the main parties’ manifestos, linked to net zero and the transition away from fossil fuels. It’s a really important policy topic in Scotland, and all of the Scottish parties support low-carbon, renewables and an energy transition, noting Scotland’s strengths in these areas. Within that discussion, both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives include support for new nuclear power generation. Scottish Labour note that nuclear is part of the current energy mix in Scotland and said it needs to be maintained to support a just transition. In contrast the SNP manifesto restates a commitment to no new nuclear power in Scotland.

The SNP emphasises some of the regulatory barriers controlled by Westminster which place the Scottish energy sector at a disadvantage. Grid connection charges, for example, are much higher in the northern parts of the UK, and the SNP calls for greater devolution of energy policy from Westminster to Holyrood. Grid connections are also mentioned by Scottish Labour, noting the delays in grid connection dates for new installations – meaning that investment is being lost and new infrastructure is being delayed. Scottish Labour outlines a plan – alongside the creation of Great British Energy – to upgrade the national grid and rewire the country.

Locally-led development

The declaration of a national housing emergency by the Scottish Parliament in May 2024 means that housing is a really important policy area in this election. It’s not surprising that the manifestos pick this up.

The Scottish Conservatives propose measures that include making it easier to convert buildings into new housing – echoing the use of Permitted Development Rights in England. They also propose expanding the Rural Housing Fund and setting up a Scottish Housing Delivery Agency. Both of these initiatives could be significant in a Scottish context because of the challenges of market housing provision in some parts of the country.

Scottish Labour link the housing emergency to planning reform, pledging to strengthen affordable housing requirements in new developments. In contrast, the SNP focus on reclaiming lost government budget from Westminster as the way to increase investment in housing.

Overall, the manifestos of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives align with the manifestos of their UK counterparts – and many of the ideas within them overlap. Scottish Labour has the most to say about planning, with some headlines about reform and streamlining alongside narratives about increasing resourcing and a new national planning unit. The SNP in contrast focusses their manifesto firepower making the case for greater devolution and lobbying Westminster.

Back to top