Key Agencies Group minutes: March 2021

Minutes from the Key Agencies Group meeting held on 11 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Katherine Lakeman – SEPA (KAG Chair)
  • Tim Moss – Architecture and Design Scotland (KAG Secretariat)
  • Eric Dawson – Scottish Government
  • Helen Fallas – British Geological Survey
  • Kate Givan – Architecture and Design Scotland
  • Debbie Livingstone – Systra Transport Scotland
  • Peter Noad – Scottish Enterprise
  • Morag Mackay – Transport Scotland
  • Trevor Moffat – Planning Improvement Service
  • Louise Morrall – Scottish Water

  • Katherine Pollard – Scottish Land Commission

  • Fiona Rice – Nature Scot
  • Graham Saunders – Historic Environment Scotland
  • David Wood – Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS)


  • Lorraine Jones – Sport Scotland
  • Sasha Laing – Forestry Scotland
  • Matt Lowther – NHS
  • Andrew McAllister – Forestry and Land Commission

Items and actions

Forthcoming KAG meeting dates

  • 17th June 2021

  • 16th September 2021

  • 25th November 2021




Welcome, introductions and apologies




Planning Act and other updates (Chair)


  • High Level Planning Performance Group Update
  • Response to NPF4 Position Statement
  • Development Planning Subgroups Update




Sub-group updates


  • Skills & training / Partner in Planning (Fiona Rice, SNH)
  • Placemaking / Green Recovery (Katherine Lakeman, SEPA)
  • Environmental Evidence (Helen Fallas, BGS)
  • Vacant and Derelict Land (David Stewart, SLC)




Draft Framework for a KAG Communications Plan (see paper) – Graham Saunders (HES), Tim Moss (A&DS) and Katherine Lakeman (SEPA)




Second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) – Deborah Livingstone (Systra): presentation and Q and A on the STPR2 which will inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years



Regional Spatial Strategies – Eric Dawson (Scottish Government, PAD): Update and KAG engagement




1. Welcome, introduction and apologies

2. Planning Bill Act and other updates

High Level Planning Performance Group updates

No updates but due to meet before the next meeting.

Response to NPF4 Position Statement 

Adele Shaw pulled together the response on behalf of the group, which was published shortly after the last meeting. The response praised the NPF4 but encouraged early dialogue and stressed the need for early engagement to resolve potential tensions between developers and agency remits.

Peter Noad asked about individual agency responses and whether these would be shared through the group. Tim Moss offered to publish individual agency responses on the Key Agencies website.

Development Planning Subgroup Update

Set up to consider the needs for the new guidance and regulation in conjunction with the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, more information is available at the Transform Planning Website. The three groups within this are: Scope and contents, Process; and evidence reports.

Outputs have now been submitted to the Scottish Government and will feed into the eventual regulations. Draft regulations and guidance are intended to be published in conjunction with the NPF4. Local place plan guidance are, however, being prioritised. Graham Saunders asked whether they are expected before Purdah, and Deborah Livingstone advised that the guidance would be made available after the elections.

Katherine Pollard asked whether anyone is submitting a response to the Place Planning Guidance or whether the Key Agencies would be. HOPS and HES have expressed an interest. PAS is submitting a more detailed response

Kate Givan shared outputs on the Scope and Content subgroups. There was wide representation from everyone. All outputs from groups should be online soon and will be shared with the rest of the group.

3. Sub-group updates

Skills & training / Partner in Planning (Fiona Rice, Nature Scot)

Kate Givan shared information about the last Partners in Planning meeting, which concerned the scaling up of their approach to skills. KAG gave some support to their new approach and highlighted the potential for a joined up approach, considering a comparative communications refresh. The universities highlighted the need for more Scottish people to think about planning as a profession. Possible outputs could be the need for young planners in the Key Agencies to help promote their roles as part of a series of videos.

Apprenticeships and graduate apprenticeships were discussed. RTPI are leading on this approach. Kate Givan expressed interest in possible secondments on KAG’s behalf at the meeting and stressed support from KAG in the project going forward.

Katherine Pollard asked about the graduate scheme and queried how this could take shape through KAG. Fiona Rice asked about how we can prepare for the incoming climate emergency and how the Key Agencies can ensure we have the skills for this. Fiona Rice pointed out how Nature Scot have similar graduate schemes and offered to share the processes with KAG. Louise Morrall echoed this point was also the case with Scottish Water.

Katherine Pollard asked about whether other built environment professions are going to address their skills gaps, Kate stated this was not raised at the meeting. Katherine Lakeman suggested we could share a focussed sub-group to assist KAG in fielding a stronger response to the upcoming strategy by Partners in Planning that would coincide with Partners in Planning events.

Peter Noad expressed interest in addressing the skills shortage and in implementing the placemaking and green recovery work through the group. Katherine Pollard also suggested a RTPI Young Planners event through KAG.

Placemaking / Green Recovery (Katherine Lakeman, SEPA)

We held a KAG workshop with Perth West and the report was published. First public workshop report. Katherine Lakeman thanked A&DS for pulling together the final report.

In December, Scottish Land Commission and Scottish Futures Trust collaborated on a scaling up workshop in East Ayrshire, focussing on Kilmarnock and Stewarton . This was further developed by Gillian Black at A&DS.

In Fife, Kate Givan and Debbie Livingstone led on engagement on a new development plan with the council. KAG are currently scoping out where we can add the most value to the project. A meeting will be held next week on the project. Fife Council have suggested a series of workshop based around policy themes. KAG are to float an area, place-based approach.

Aberdeenshire Council held a meeting with the subgroup on a potential role with Peterhead place investment plan. A lot of work is currently ongoing, and KAG are keen to ensure can join these projects up to add value here. Peter Noad held a meeting with council members earlier in the year and the project has been pushed back recently.

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Highland Councils are currently in ongoing talks on potential new projects. With Stirling, in February we met with Stirling Council to discuss a potential role.

Perth Most Sustainable Small City in Europe project, focussed on utilising the natural assets of Perth – its biodiversity and potential for better blue-green infrastructure investment. Meeting held in February and the project could be KAGs first non-council green offer project, being led by Mike Robinson of Scottish Geographic Society.

A meeting was also held with Andy Stewart who is leading on the Blindwells in Cockenzie, and project manager for growth delivery at East Lothian Council. Currently a brief out for infrastructure provision.

Graham Saunders suggested a joint response to xxxxx, to maintain discussion. Louise Morrall and Kate Givan suggested that their teams may have put forward or be putting forward a response. Graham Saunders to follow up.

Environmental Evidence (Helen Fallas, BGS)

Hellen Fallas, introduced the the next steps following on from the Data Pathfinder exploratory report for SG's digital transformation programme, which was undertaken by the KAG subgroup. The report will be circulated internally among the Key Agencies Group – the report remains confidential to Scottish Government and not for wider circulation.

Next steps are to continue the Key Agencies subgroup working with Scottish Government, with a follow-on piece of work being considered by Scottish Government to develop. A skills gap is acknowledged in data literacy among professionals.

Vacant and Derelict Land (David Stewart, SLC)

Katherine Pollard gave an overview of the subgroup on David Stewart's behalf, a meeting chaired by Heather Claridge, A&DS, was held earlier in the year and another one is to be held this week. A final report should be published on the next few months that builds on the findings made and issues highlighted.

Graham Saunders raised the need for KAG to issue a response to the CRC's Action Plan. A&DS are actively involved with the team responsible for this and the opportunity for engagement has been discussed.

4. Draft Framework for a KAG Communications Plan

Graham Saunders introduced the paper shared with the meeting minutes. We have taken an approach to focus on the objectives and key messages. The next stage is to look at how we achieve these goals.

The group praised the approach taken so far. Louise Morrall expanded here to suggest how we could segment by different stakeholders our key messages. She also questioned whether the ‘raising awareness’ and ‘promoting’ objectives could be merged.

Fiona Rice echoed Louise’s point but felt that the basic principle was good. She questioned whether we need to caveat these with a resources issue. Kate Givan suggested the need to include more language around a ‘place-based approach’ in our key messaging. Tim Moss floated a need to join up other communications personal from the individual Key Agencies. Louise Morrall suggested putting herself forward for further involvement.

Katherine Pollard suggested how our approach needs to consider how better we can evidence the value our work adds in our communications work. Katherine Lakeman suggested a separate subgroup to discussed the next steps further.

5. Second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2)

Deborah Livingstone (Systra): presentation and Q and A on the STPR2 which will inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years

STPR2 gives the investment priorities for the next 20 years. Compared with STPR 1, the new version is much more holistic with a stronger focus on active travel. Scotland is broken into 11 regions and Deborah Livingstone acts as regional lead for Argyll and Bute as well as her current role.

So far, STPR2 is at the ‘intervention appraisal’ stage and is currently undertaking an SEA. Due to the pandemic, a ‘phased approach’ to new transport measures has been taken, one which identifies and prioritises projects that can be fast-tracked and will be sustainable. The outcomes of Phase 1 will be shared with KAG soon. There is a strong place-based focus, and on reducing unsustainable travel. Phase 2 of the project will look at problems and opportunities.

During the presentation Deborah recommended members read National Transport Strategy 2 (NTS2) for a clearer picture of the direction of travel for transport strategy. The COVID-19 addendum was also recommended. Furthermore, Deborah stressed the usefulness of the STPR2 website for place-based approaches.

In the discussion, Louise Morrall asked how COVID-19 has impacted the progress. Deborah Livingstone pointed to the latest addendum published on the Scottish Government website. Slide to be forwarded on.

Peter Noad asked whether the concerns have been mitigated around the potential marginalising of car infrastructure in the process. Deborah Livingstone highlighted how this was indeed the direction the policy was going and that new approaches we are looking to preserve the car infrastructure already existing and rolling out new active travel routes.

Louise Morrall asked about the work being undertaken towards ensuring those with disabilities are able to access the new active travel routes. Kate Givan asked about the success in messaging around the active travel implementation. Deborah Livingstone offered to share more information from her publicity team.

6. Regional Spatial Strategies

Eric Dawson (Scottish Government, PAD): update and KAG engagement

Prior to Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) were confined to four key areas grouped around conurbations. Elsewhere, other approaches were taken in infrastructure planning and approaches to national transport strategy. Fundamentally, this has shifted now to creating strategies through groupings of local authorities. NPF4 takes into account of the new strategies but, as they do not yet exist, indicative ones have been used.

During the early workshops of RSS development, policy makers looked at approaches around Sheffield, Greater Manchester, Wales and elsewhere in the UK. Working with HoPS, early thinking on RSS evolved into some initial videos created by each of the indicative groups of local authorities. The aim here was to consider each RSS’ elevator pitch.

Since the initial stages, the outputs now involve a diagrammatic look, with all submitted proposals mapped at national level. Eric Dawson stated that the approach had been consciously more ‘bottom-up’ than in the past. The idea has been to align where projects overlap or can be combined for efficiency. Similarly there has been a top-down look at how these projects can be mitigated or enhanced to ensure Scotland meets its net zero targets and responds to external pressures.

The next steps are for wider stakeholder consultation, which presents new opportunities for engagement on projects. NPF4 is anticipated to rollout by spring next year.

Louise Morrall asked about aspirations for the digital mapping platform and how Scottish Water can add value. Eric Dawson highlighted how the digital team at SG PAD are working closely on this but that the process had been delayed due to staff being reassigned on COVID-19 related projects.

Fiona Rice expressed concern about the place of biodiversity in the project, Eric Dawson highlighted that while the theme was covered in early engagement, the current diagrams are more exploratory and the next stage would provide ample opportunity for involvement and encouraged all KAG members to reach out to the involved local authorities on this.

Tim Moss asked about the community wealth partnerships at regional level planned, and highlighted how the scale is a real chance to lead across the UK. Tim asked about whether this presents a chance to increase Scottish Government’s capacity to deliver internally and make savings in the process. Eric said how these have been based on projects in the Ayrshires and Clackmannanshire Council, and that wealth building was a local and national consideration here. The point has been to allow communities to ensure we are more strategically ambitious and consider the wider social importance of areas such as high streets.

7. AOB

To float actions over email.

In response, Alasdair updated the group that since the last meeting NatureScot commissioned further research on the call for sites process and its relationship with SEA in response to the Ryden report and brief meeting - which is still in draft. Other issues flowing from the findings in the Ryden report are now being picked up as part of the transforming planning LDP workstreams on process, content and evidence.

A Key Agency subgroup for Communications has also been formed.


Appendix 1: action log from last meeting




All Agencies to begin the process of considering what are the key information/data requirements which they require during the review and assessment of land allocations or planning application assessment, to inform the further development of the Planning Gateway tool as being developed by the Scottish Government.



Sarah Shaw (HoPS) to enquire if Scottish Government attending next HoPS Development Management meeting and will advise KAG of their response to questions raised

Sarah Shaw


All to complete table as circulated by Anna regarding individual agency role, remit, functions and staff for Matt Lowther at Public Health Scotland to inform understanding of KAG input and role in planning system.



Katherine to circulate Service Level Agreement for Agencies to update as appropriate



Tim to publish individual agency responses to NPF4 on the Key Agencies website.

All/Tim Moss


Hellen Fallas to circulate a report from the Data Pathfinder project to the KAG group

Hellen Fallas



Group chair:

Group secretariat:

Twitter: @KeyAgenciesScot

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