1.1 An independent review of the Scottish planning system 'Empowering planning to deliver great places' was published on 31 May 2016. The review was carried out by an independent panel, appointed by the Scottish Ministers, and operated independently of the Scottish Government. The independent panel recognised that skills and training for elected members is an important part of an efficient planning system, but were concerned that training requirements were not always enforced. They recommended that skills development was required in a number of priority areas and that 'training of elected members should be mandatory, monitored and enforced'.
1.2 The subsequent public consultation and June 2017 Position Statement indicated broad support for mandatory training for elected members. The Position Statement explained there was strong consensus that mandatory training is implemented for all local elected members who are involved in a planning committee or any other body, in order to improve consistency within decision-making.
1.3 Mandatory training for elected members was included in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, alongside a package of measures to improve the performance of the planning system as a whole. Section 45 of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, once in force, will prohibit elected members from carrying out certain specified planning functions if they have not completed training specified by Scottish Ministers. These functions are to be specified in regulations and may for example include the determination of planning applications. This consultation is seeking your views on the proposed approach to implementing these provisions.
Elected Member's role in the planning system
1.4 Elected members have a crucial role in the decision-making process within the planning system, being a vital part of our democratic process by carrying out specific planning functions including the determination of certain planning applications for their local authority. Elected members do not necessarily have a planning background and it is vital that adequate training is provided to ensure that elected members have the knowledge and understanding to help them make decisions that are robust and sound in planning reason.
1.5 The implementation of elected member training will benefit the wider planning system by giving those involved in the decision-making process an increased understanding of their role. This could help to ensure planning decisions across Scotland are made on a consistent basis which is robust and grounded in an understanding of relevant planning principles, policies and legislation in order to improve trust in the planning system.
1.6 The planning system has an important role in helping us to deliver on our ambitions for Scotland. It supports the delivery of a range of cross-cutting objectives to deliver the Scottish Government's Strategic Priorities and Outcomes contained within the National Performance Framework. The recently adopted National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), which is part of the statutory development plan, sets out national planning policies, designates national developments, highlights regional spatial priorities and places National Outcomes at its centre. It highlights that planning has a unique role in contributing to all of the National Outcomes.
1.7 We consider that the introduction of mandatory training for elected members will help deliver these ambitions by providing quality public services and improving influence over local decisions (Human Rights Outcome) and improving trust in public organisations and Scotland's reputation (International Outcome).
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