Skip to main content
Close Menu Open Menu

RTPI Scotland's response to 'Inquiry into Public Administration- Effective Scottish Government decision-making'

A Scottish Government Public Administration Inquiry

Public Administration Inquiry Link: Inquiry into Public Administration - Effective Scottish Government decision-making | Scottish Parliament Website


1. What are key methodologies, processes and principles that should underpin an effective decision-making process in Government?

RTPI Scotland believes that key principles for decision making should include:

  • Subsidiarity – decisions should consider where powers are vested in, and exercised, at a level that will be most effective in supporting all parties to deliver better places in Scotland.
  • Coordination – decision making should ensure that decision making supports and complements the ability to coordinate approaches
  • Appropriateness – decision making allows Scottish Government and its partners to develop specific approaches to tackle Scotland’s specific needs where this appropriate
  • Resourced – that decision making quantifies, considers and ensures that any new work is properly resourced to ensure effective implementation
  • Aligned - decisions made across government must be joined up to ensure that they complement and don’t contradict or ‘get in the way’ of one another
  • Engagement – that any new approaches or proposals are consulted upon and that Scottish Government works with its delivery partners in assessing how best to make them work
  • Spatial – decision making is contextualised in terms of how they will impact on the different geographies of Scotland so as to promote better integrated approaches. Too often subsequent policy approaches are programme or silo-based
  • Monitored – that approaches taken are monitored to check on their effectiveness
  • Sustainable – decision making supports the overarching principles of sustainable development
  • Long term – ensure that decisions made support Scotland’s longer term plans, ambitions and aspirations. They cannot be focused on merely providing short term fixes.

From a placemaking perspective it is critical that any methodologies, processes and principles underpinning decisions in Government take cognisance of their spatial implications and are anchored to place-based approaches. To support this RTPI Scotland wishes to highlight the critical consideration Government should take to the recently approved and soon to be adopted National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). The NPF4 is a 10-year plan that sets out the vision for Scotland to 2050. This includes setting out Scottish Government’s spatial principles, regional priorities, national developments and national planning policy. To achieve its ambitions, the NPF4 should be seen as the spatial articulation of Scottish Government policy and be a fundamental consideration in decision-making going forward. This would support the alignment of funding and investment decisions, enhance links between spatial and community planning and avoid silo working, whilst also strengthening the durability of the NPF4 itself. Of particular importance will be the alignment of the next iteration of the Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) and the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2) and the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) as they are updated through their respective action programmes.

As mentioned above, the NPF4 is a long-term spatial framework and it is important that decision making is considered in terms of its short, medium and long-term impact from the outset. Town planning decisions often are considered in very lengthy timeframes, from 1-25 year time periods and beyond. This is markedly longer than political cycles and many significant infrastructure projects require the certainty from long-term thinking to be planned and delivered. We need to move beyond simply considering short-term gains, embedding long term future impacts and aspirations into the decision making process. Of particular note, in order to achieve deliverable proposals, decision-making needs to consider resourcing requirements and funding sources in an open and transparent manner from the very outset; for both short, medium and long-term. If this approach is truly applied RTPI Scotland believes that Scottish Government can better plan and deliver preventative spend, in line with the recommendations set out in the Christie commission (2011)[1]. This could support long term financial sustainability whilst better addressing some of key challenges of our time, namely reducing health inequalities and tackling climate change.


2. What are the capabilities and skills necessary for civil servants to support effective decision making, and in what ways could these be developed further?

Joined up working and collaboration within Scottish Government is a critical means of supporting effective decision making. When developing new strategies, it should be an imperative that dissemination across Government departments is undertaken, so considerations which are relevant to other departments are considered at the earliest possible stage. RTPI Scotland understands that such procedures are already in place but it does not always result in consistent outcomes and should be further developed and formalised. For example, whilst the NPF4 identifies the key relationship between itself and NSET, NSET itself makes very weak reference to the NPF4; indicating an inconsistent and disjointed approach to policy alignment within Government.


3. What are the behaviours and culture that promote effective decision-making?

Whilst developed for local government, RTPI Scotland wish to highlight the valuable organisational behaviour and cultures promoted by the Place Principle. To ensure maximum societal value is derived from investment and services, RTPI Scotland believes that long-term financial planning needs to be considered from the lens of a place-based approach. Place-based approaches are about considering all aspects of a place when considering an intervention. To achieve a place-based approach at a local level Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed to adopt the Place Principle to help overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries. This includes improving coordination between stakeholders, enhancing collaboration and communication across local authorities departments, key agencies, NGOs and private sector. The principle requests that all those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place need to work and plan together, and with local communities, to improve the lives of people, support inclusive growth and create more successful places. RTPI Scotland believes the core aspirations of the Place Principle should be enshrined in the ways of working at both local and national scales.


4. What is best practice in relation to what information is recorded, by whom and how should it be used to support effective decision-making?

No comment.


5. What does effective decision-making by the Scottish Government ‘look like’ and how should it learn from what has worked well and not so well? Please share any best practice examples.

See principle outlined above in response to Q1.

RTPI Scotland wishes to commend the Scottish Government’s Planning, Architecture and Regeneration Division’s approach to consultation through the development of the National Planning Framework 4. An open and collaborative approach was taken from the very beginning of the process. However, given the importance of the delivery programmes in supporting the delivery of the national strategies, in future scenarios RTPI Scotland would advocate for consultations to include draft delivery programmes as matter of course.


6. To what extent should there be similarities or differences in the process for decision-making across the Scottish Government?

RTPI Scotland would imagine that providing some high-level principles of decision-making within Scottish Government would be beneficial. These principles should be tied to the National Performance Framework.


7. What role should ‘critical challenge’ have in Government decision-making, when should it be used in the process and who should provide it?

Critical challenge, whereby issues of the utmost importance are addressed to ensure the smooth running of any implemented program, should be undertaken at the earliest possible stage when developing strategies and funding programmes. RTPI Scotland believes a collaborative approach should be taken across governmental departments and key stakeholders in order to map out critical issues at an early stage.


8. What is considered to be the most appropriate way of taking account of risk as part of effective Government decision-making?

Risk analysis should be embedded in Government decision-making and incorporated from the outset of policy formation and continually monitored throughout the process, perhaps aided through the process of developing corresponding impact assessments.


9. How can transparency of the decision-making process be improved?

As set out in response to Q6 if high-level principles were set out, any decision making would then have to set out how the principles were considered in the process. RTPI Scotland wishes to also reiterate the point made in response to Q1 around the need for more transparency around the potential resourcing impacts of decisions.


10. How can decisions by the Scottish Government be more effectively communicated with stakeholders?

RTPI Scotland would again like to welcome the approach taken by Scottish Government PARD in the production of the revised draft NPF4 through the publication of an explanatory report. This report was published alongside the revised draft NPF4 and set out how feedback from the previous consultation was considered in the drafting process. 




Back to top