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Election Hub

Planning the Scotland We Need

The Scottish Parliament elections took place in May 2021. You can read our election analysis below. Additionally prior to the election we looked at the different manifestos and their impact on planning. You can read that analysis further down on this page by clicking here

Post Election Analysis: Plan the Scotland We Need

The Scottish election has led to the SNP remaining the largest party with 64 out of the 129 seats, a gain of one compared to the results in 2016. Although this doesn’t give them an overall majority in the Parliament it is very likely that they will go forward as a minority government and rely on the support of other parties to support different pieces of legislation.

It is assumed that much of the new government’s work going forward will build on what was already underway and from a planning viewpoint that will include the development of 4th National Planning Framework (NPF4), the continued implementation of the 2019 Planning Act, the delivery of the revised Town Centre Action Plan and supporting the updated Climate Action Plan to deliver net zero carbon by 2045.  However, prior to the election RTPI Scotland published a manifesto with 7 ‘asks’ of the next government. So what does the re-election of the SNP mean for each of them and what is said in the SNP manifesto?

Plan for a Green Economy

We had asked that the next government plan for a green recovery by agreeing and delivering a forward looking and ambitious NPF4 with committed funding to help achieve net zero carbon targets, reduce health inequalities, support a wellbeing economy and ensure a quality and affordable home for everyone who needs one. The drive towards net zero carbon by 2045 is a key part of the SNP’s manifesto. Some headline actions and ambitions include:

  • decarbonising the heating of 1 million homes by 2030
  • delivering 100,000 affordable homes by 2032
  • reducing the use of cars by 20% by 2030
  • spending 10% of the transport capital budget on cycling, walking and wheeling
  • appointing a Minister for Just Transition who will be responsible for overseeing a national mission of fairness and opportunity as the country moves towards net zero
  • investing £500m the natural economy to support biodiversity
  • generating 50% of Scotland total energy consumption through renewables by 2030

Although not mentioned specifically in their manifesto it is anticipated that the new NPF4 will have an important role to play in the move towards zero carbon. Scottish Government has engaged widely and deeply with RTPI and others and in responding to their most recent NPF4 position statement and RTPI Scotland said it broadly welcomed the direction of travel and was pleased to see ‘a clear synergy’ with the Institute’s Plan The World We Need campaign. However we believe that there is still a need for the NPF to be supported by resources to deliver its ambitions through a linked capital investment programme, coordination between other national strategies and stakeholders and a commitment to make NPF4 a key corporate document that serves as the core of future policy development in Scotland.

Twenty Minute Neighbourhoods

The RTPI Scotland manifesto called on the government to create places for people by embedding twenty minute neighbourhoods into decisions in policy, practice and investment. It is welcomed that the SNP manifesto states that they will support communities to become 20 minute neighbourhoods and in doing so will change approached to housing, transport and public services. They will set a national target to increase the amount of housing in town centres.  There will be a key role for the NPF in providing the context for this and key steps that need be taken are outlined RTPI Scotland’s paper on Implementing 20 Minute Neighbourhoods in Planning Policy and Practice

Invest in planning services

The SNP manifesto is quiet on investing in the planning service however it had indicated pre-COVID that would be working towards increasing planning fees. It was good to see that the manifestos of a number of business groups and representative bodies - including CBI Scotland, Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Scottish Renewables - highlighted the need to better resource planning services, a welcome shift from previous calls for planning reform to a new paradigm of a need to invest.  We will be looking to build on this support.

Prior to the election Scottish Government launched a digital planning transformation delivery programme that aims to design and deliver new systems and services, start to improve planning data and advance digital skills in planning.  This work is underpinned by the funding commitment of £35m across the next 5 years.

Local Place Plans

We called on Scottish Government to support communities to shape where they live by proving them with resources to develop Local Place Plans. This was a key aspect of the Planning Act and the government are currently consulting on proposals for regulations on the content, preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans. There is, however, a need to discuss how these will be funded, and by whom.


The RTPI manifesto said that either is a need to integrate and invest in infrastructure by establishing an independent, specialist body to coordinate and provide strategic, upfront and long-term infrastructure advice to Scottish Government and to identify resources required for delivery. The SNP have stated in their manifesto that they will invest £33bn over the next 5 year in the national infrastructure mission and establish a National Infrastructure Company that will manage public assets for the public good. It also commits to £550m for city and regional growth deals over the next 5 years and £275m for community regeneration and town centre revitalisation. They also say that provisions will be made for the relevant Economic Development body to provide an  assessment of the potential economic benefits of planning applications which may have regional or national importance in their area whilst the manifesto says that they will bring forward new legislation to introduce Land Value Capture to make sure changes of land use lead to a proportion of the increase in the price being reinvested in the local community, including social infrastructure and affordable housing. There is also a commitment to update planning and building regulations so that digital connectivity is treated as an essential utility, like energy and water, and is standard in all new housing developments in the future.

Planning Performance

Measure planning performance through outcomes through ensuring the new Planning Improvement Coordinator is able to provide independent advice, is resourced adequately and introduces outcomes-based performance management. Scottish Government is committed to appointing the Coordinator who will have an influential role in measuring and setting the standards for planning performance.  RTPI Scotland is looking to work with the government in taking forward the guidance on the new statutory Chief Planning Officers. This will set out their role, responsibilities and experience required and in our view has to ensure that they are engaged early and productively on key decisions that affect local communities.

Planning Apprenticeships

Our manifesto asked for an increase in the number of planners to support recovery and suggested that this would mean introducing a planning apprenticeship and skills development programme. The SNP have said they aim to have 30,000 modern apprentices in place and will then assess demand and see how further they can go. The Skills in Planning Research Paper, commissioned by Scottish Government agency Skills Development Scotland for Partners in Planning (PiP), of which RTPI is a member, sets out 25 recommendations to raise the profile of planning and attract more students and young people into the profession including exploring the idea of apprenticeships.

Moving forward post-election there will be a crucial role for RTPI Scotland to engage with new Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers, newly elected MSPs and the Parliament’s committees which have a powerful scrutiny role.  This is especially important as the draft 4th National Planning Framework will be laid before Parliament in the in autumn, so we expect this to be one of the first things to land on the newly elected MSPs desks. At the core of this work we will continue to champion the role of planners and place in the post-COVID recovery of our country and highlight the policy levers and tools we need to achieve this.  Keep an eye on our Election Hub for updates.

The party manifestos

RTPI Scotland studied the manifestos from the key participating political parties from a planning perspective to Plan The Scotland We Need.

RTPI Scotland has made a series of Asks of the Parties standing for election. You can read what the Parties are saying about planning and related issues below: