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The planning system in Scotland

The planning system is used to make decisions about the future development and the use of land in our towns, cities and countryside. It considers where development should happen, where it should not and how development affects its surroundings. The system balances competing demands to make sure that land is used and developed in the public's long-term interest.

There are other organisations with important roles to play in planning in Scotland.

Scottish Government

The key responsibilities of the Scottish Government on planning are:

  • maintaining and developing planning legislation
  • representing Scottish Government interests in development plans, notified applications, recalled appeals and other casework that comes before Scottish Ministers
  • preparing and monitoring delivery of the National Planning Framework
  • providing clear and proportionate planning policy and advice
  • facilitating the dissemination of good practice
  • promoting high quality design and place making
  • leading and coordinating the implementation of e-Planning

It publishes a Service Improvement Plan annually in the Spring. This reports on its performance for the previous year and the intended improvements for the following year.

The Scottish Government website provides:

A Guide to the Planning System outlines the new planning system (as of 3 August 2009)

Planning homepage for accessing a range of information on the planning system, legislation and current policy

There is also:

A Brief Guide to the 2006 Scottish Planning Act and a guide to the changes required by the Act in Unlocking Planning's Potential

General Planning Enquiries can also be made to the Scottish Government Central Enquiry Unit on 0300 244 4000 or by email or by visiting

Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS)

PAS is a Scottish charity which is supported by RTPI Scotland and which provides a free, professional advice service to people and communities to help them understand the planning system and engage more effectively in it.

Their advisory and training work is through a unique network of over 300 volunteers, all planning professionals, who provide their time and specialist knowledge. PAS works with communities to shape Scotland's future, providing support and information.

Its role is to:

  • ensure that everyone has access to the planning system
  • provide knowledge and information to all people
  • help people to understand how the planning system works
  • enable all people to play their part

Their free planning advice helpline for individuals and communities is: 0300 323 7602.

Planning consultants

The Online Directory of Planning Consultants provides a list of RTPI members who provide consultancy services in Scotland as well as other parts of the UK

Local Authorities

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) provides contact details for all local authorities.

Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS) aims to promote planning at local and national levels by providing a forum for discussion and study of planning.

Membership of HoPS is open to:

  • Directors with overall responsibility for Planning
  • Heads of Planning
  • Officers with Area or Functional Management responsibility at senior level

The HoPS website is

RTPI accredited courses at universities in Scotland

The following planning schools in Scotland currently offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses accredited by the RTPI:

  • Heriot-Watt University School of the Built Environment
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Glasgow

RTPI Scotland has published a careers guide; Step up to a Career in Town and Country Planning:

Download a PDF version

Forthcoming events
View all Events

@rtpiscotland : The RTPI's Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative has been launched where young planners can apply to experience wor… 06/12/2019 - 05:23

@rtpiscotland : . @Lawscot has issued a consultation to identify good practice in planning obligations that can help minimise uncer… 06/12/2019 - 05:14

@rtpiscotland : The winner of Scotland's Most Improved Place at the #SURFAwards is the Calton Barras in Glasgow. Very well done! 05/12/2019 - 08:12

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