National Planning Framework 4: revised draft

Revised Draft National Planning Framework 4 is our national spatial strategy for Scotland. It sets out our spatial principles, regional priorities, national developments and national planning policy.

Part 1 – A National Spatial Strategy for Scotland 2045

The world is facing unprecedented challenges. The global climate emergency means that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the future impacts of climate change. We will need to respond to a growing nature crisis, and to work together to enable development that addresses the social and economic legacy of the coronavirus pandemic, the cost crisis and longstanding inequality.

Scotland’s rich heritage, culture and outstanding environment are national assets which support our economy, identity, health and wellbeing. Many communities benefit from great places with excellent quality of life and quality, affordable homes. Many people can easily access high quality local greenspaces and neighbourhood facilities, safe and welcoming streets and spaces and buildings that reflect diverse cultures and aspirations. Increasingly, communities have been finding new ways to live sustainably, including by taking control of their property or land.

However, people living in Scotland have very different life chances, at least partly a result of the places where they live.

Past industrial restructuring has had significant impacts in some places and communities. Disadvantage, child poverty and poor health outcomes are concentrated in parts of Scotland where life expectancy is significantly lower than in more advantaged areas. Access to the natural environment varies, and pollution and derelict land is concentrated in some places. Population change will bring further challenges in the future, particularly in rural parts of Scotland. Many people have limited access to opportunities because of the way our places have been designed in the past, and our city and town centres have experienced accelerating change in recent years.

We have already taken significant steps towards decarbonising energy and land use, but choices need to be made about how we can make sustainable use of our natural assets in a way which benefits communities.

Planning is a powerful tool for delivering change on the ground in a way which brings together competing interests so that decisions reflect the long-term public interest. Past, present and future challenges mean that we will need to make the right choices about where development should be located. We also need to be clear about the types of infrastructure we will need to build, and the assets that should be protected to ensure they continue to benefit future generations.

Spatial principles

We will plan our future places in line with six overarching spatial principles:

  • Just transition. We will empower people to shape their places and ensure the transition to net zero is fair and inclusive.
  • Conserving and recycling assets. We will make productive use of existing buildings, places, infrastructure and services, locking in carbon, minimising waste, and building a circular economy.
  • Local living. We will support local liveability and improve community health and wellbeing by ensuring people can easily access services, greenspace, learning, work and leisure locally.
  • Compact urban growth. We will limit urban expansion so we can optimise the use of land to provide services and resources, including carbon storage, flood risk management, blue and green infrastructure and biodiversity.
  • Rebalanced development. We will target development to create opportunities for communities and investment in areas of past decline, and manage development sustainably in areas of high demand.
  • Rural revitalisation. We will encourage sustainable development in rural areas, recognising the need to grow and support urban and rural communities together.

These principles will play a key role in delivering on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our national outcomes.

Applying these principles in practice

We want our future places to work for everyone. Rather than compromise or trade-offs between environmental, social and economic objectives, this is an integrated strategy to bring together cross-cutting priorities and achieve sustainable development.

By applying these spatial principles, our national spatial strategy will support the planning and delivery of:

  • • sustainable places, where we reduce emissions, restore and better connect biodiversity;
  • • liveable places, where we can all live better, healthier lives; and
  • • productive places, where we have a greener, fairer and more inclusive wellbeing economy.

Eighteen national developments support this strategy, including single large scale projects and networks of several smaller scale proposals that are collectively nationally significant. National developments will be a focus for delivery, as well as exemplars of the Place Principle, placemaking and a Community Wealth Building (CWB) approach to economic development. Regional spatial strategies and Local Development Plans (LDPs) should identify and support national developments which are relevant to their areas.

The strategy will be taken forward in different ways across Scotland, reflecting the diverse character, assets and challenges of our places. To guide this, we have identified regional spatial priorities for five broad regions of Scotland which will inform the preparation of regional spatial strategies (RSS) and LDPs by planning authorities.

Table 1 – National Planning Framework 4 Summary

Sustainable places

SDGs: 7, 11, 12, 13

National outcomes: Environment, communities, economy

Spatial principles
  • Just transition
  • Conserving and recycling assets
National Developments
  • Energy Innovation Development on the islands.
  • Pumped Hydro Storage
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure
  • Circular Economy Materials Management Facilities
  • Urban Sustainable, Blue and Green Surface Water Management Solutions
  • Urban Mass/Rapid Transit Networks
  • Tackling the climate and nature crises
  • Climate mitigation and adaptation
  • Biodiversity
  • Natural places
  • Soils
  • Forestry, woodland and trees
  • Historic assets and places
  • Green belts
  • Brownfield land, vacant and derelict land and empty buildings
  • Coastal development
  • Energy
  • Zero waste
  • Sustainable transport
Key policy links
  • Land Use – getting the best from our land: strategy 2021 – 2026
  • Making things last: a circular economy strategy for Scotland
  • Scotland’s Energy Strategy
  • Scotland’s Environment Strategy
  • Scotland’s Forestry Strategy
  • Scottish Biodiversity Strategy

Liveable places

SDGs: 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11

National outcomes: Communities, culture, human rights, children and young people, health

Spatial principles
  • Liveable places
  • Compact urban growth
National Developments
  • Central Scotland Green Network
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network
  • Edinburgh Waterfront
  • Dundee Waterfront
  • Stranraer Gateway
  • A Digital Fibre Network
  • Design, quality and place
  • Local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods
  • Quality homes
  • Rural homes
  • Infrastructure first
  • Heat and cooling
  • Blue and green infrastructure
  • Play, recreation and sport
  • Flood risk and water management
  • Health and Safety
  • Digital infrastructure
Key policy links
  • A Connected Scotland
  • A Healthier Future: Scotland’s diet and healthy weight delivery plan
  • Cleaner Air for Scotland 2
  • Creating Places
  • Culture Strategy
  • Heat in Buildings Strategy
  • Housing to 2040
  • Learning Estate Strategy/Learning Estate Investment Programme
  • Public Health Priorities for Scotland
  • Remote, Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan (pub. Spring 2023)
  • Scotland’s Population Strategy

Productive places

SDGs: 1, 2, 8, 9, 11, 14

National outcomes: Fair work and business, economy, poverty, communities

Spatial principles
  • Rebalancing development
  • Rural revitalisation
National Developments
  • Clyde Mission
  • Aberdeen Harbour
  • Industrial Green Transition Zones
  • Hunterston Strategic Asset
  • Chapelcross Power Station Redevelopment
  • High Speed Rail
  • Community wealth building
  • Business and industry
  • City, town, local and commercial centres
  • Retail
  • Rural development
  • Tourism
  • Culture and creativity
  • Aquaculture
  • Minerals
Key policy links
  • National Strategy for Economic Transformation
  • Retail Strategy for Scotland
  • Report of the City Centre Recovery Taskforce
  • Scottish land rights and responsibilities statement
  • Town Centre Action Plan 2

Cross cutting policies

  • Climate Change Plan
  • Climate Change Adaptation Programme
  • Just Transition Plans
  • National Transport Strategy
  • Infrastructure Investment Plan
  • Strategic Transport Projects Review 2
  • National Islands Plan
  • National Marine Plan
  • Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

Sustainable places

Our climate is changing, with increasing rainfall, extreme weather events and higher temperatures that will intensify in the coming years. This will increase flood risk, water scarcity, environmental change, coastal erosion, impact on forestry and agriculture, and generate risks to health, food security and safety. Impacts will not be equal and communities who already face disadvantage will be particularly affected.

Scotland’s high quality environment, and the natural capital it supports, underpin our approach to tackling climate change and the economy and is fundamental to our health and wellbeing. It provides the essentials we all need to survive, including clean air water and food.

However, the health of the planet’s ecosystems is declining faster than at any point in human history and our natural environment is facing significant challenges, including ongoing loss of biodiversity. Since the 1990s alone, wildlife populations in Scotland have declined, on average, by around a quarter. This threatens the capacity of the natural environment to provide the services we all rely on, and reduces our resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Scotland’s Climate Change Plan, backed by legislation, has set our approach to achieving net zero emissions by 2045, and we must make significant progress towards this by 2030 including by reducing car kilometres travelled by 20% by reducing the need to travel and promoting more sustainable transport.

Just Transition sector plans, designed and delivered with those impacted, will play an important role in delivering the change we need to see. We must also adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already locked in, by delivering Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Programme.

Scotland’s Climate Assembly set out recommendations for how Scotland should change to tackle the climate emergency and gives us a key insight into the measures the Scottish Public expect for a just transition to net zero emissions by 2045.

Scotland’s Energy Strategy will set a new agenda for the energy sector in anticipation of continuing innovation and investment. The interplay between land and sea will be critical, given the scale of offshore renewable energy resources. Our Infrastructure Investment Plan and National Transport Strategy are clear that we must work with our existing infrastructure assets first, before investing in additional assets.

Scotland’s Environment Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for tackling the twin climate and nature crises. Building on this, a new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy will set targets for halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and restoring and regenerating biodiversity by 2045. Scotland’s Land Use Strategy aims to make efficient use of our land by managing competing activities in a sustainable way.

National spatial strategy

Scotland’s future places will be net zero, nature-positive places that are designed to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, whilst protecting, recovering and restoring our environment.

Meeting our climate ambition will require a rapid transformation across all sectors of our economy and society. This means ensuring the right development happens in the right place.

Every decision on our future development must contribute to making Scotland a more sustainable place. We will encourage low and zero carbon design and energy efficiency, development that is accessible by sustainable travel, and expansion of renewable energy generation. It is also crucial that we build resilience to the future impacts of climate change including water resources and assets and development on our coasts. Our places will also need to evolve to help us cope with changing temperatures.

Our commitment to a just transition, means that our journey to a net zero society and nature recovery must involve, and be fair to, everyone. We will grow a circular economy and make best use of embodied carbon by conserving and recycling assets, including by encouraging sustainable design and the wise use of resources.

To respond to the global biodiversity crisis, nature recovery must be at the heart of future places. We will secure positive effects for biodiversity, create and strengthen nature networks and invest in nature-based solutions to benefit natural capital and contribute to net zero. We will use our land wisely including through a renewed focus on reusing vacant and derelict land to help limit the new land that we build on. We will protect and enhance our historic environment, and safeguard our shared heritage for future generations. We will also work together to ensure that development onshore aligns with national, sectoral and regional marine plans.

National developments

Six national developments support the delivery of sustainable places:

  • Energy Innovation Development on the Islands provides infrastructure for low carbon fuels for communities and commerce, as well as for export. This will contribute to improved energy security, unlock opportunities for employment and business, and help to put Scotland at the forefront of low carbon fuel innovation.
  • Pumped Hydro Storage extends hydro-electricity capacity to support the transition away from fossil fuels, whilst also providing employment opportunities in rural areas.
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure supports electricity generation and associated grid infrastructure throughout Scotland, providing employment and opportunities for community benefit, helping to reduce emissions and improve security of supply.
  • Circular Economy Materials Management Facilities facilitates delivery of zero waste objectives by reducing the need for new materials, resource use and emissions.
  • Urban Sustainable, Blue and Green Surface Water Management Solutions is an exemplar of a nature based, infrastructure first approach to catchment wide surface water flood risk management to help our two largest cities adapt to the future impacts of climate change.
  • Urban Mass/Rapid Transit Networks facilitates a shift towards sustainable transport in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen and their wider regions, helping to reduce transport related emissions and supporting accessibility for all.

Cross-cutting Outcome And Policy Links: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Our strategy and policies support development that helps to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets.

The global climate emergency and the nature crisis have formed the foundations for the spatial strategy as a whole. The regional priorities share opportunities and challenges for reducing emissions and adapting to the long-term impacts of climate change, in a way which protects and enhances our natural environment.

Policy 1 gives significant weight to the global climate emergency in order to ensure that it is recognised as a priority in all plans and decisions. Policy 2 will ensure that emissions from new development are minimised as far as possible.

A healthy natural environment is key to reducing emissions. Policies 3 and 4 protect biodiversity and natural assets, which in turn play a crucial role in carbon reduction. Policy 5 provides significant protection for peatland and carbon rich soils and Policy 6 aims to protect and expand forests, woodland and trees. Blue and green infrastructure is supported by Policy 20. Policy 10 encourages the use of natural solutions to coastal protection. Policy 7 protects the embodied carbon in the historic built environment, and Policy 9 makes better use of previously used land and buildings, helping to lock in carbon.

By supporting the transition of key emissions generating activities, Policy 11 supports renewable energy development, Policy 19 helps to decarbonise heat, alongside Policy 18 and its encouragement of an infrastructure first approach. Policy 12 encourages sustainable waste management, and Policy 13 will facilitate a transition towards more sustainable, lower emissions travel including active travel and public transport.

Several policies support more local living and limit the use of additional land for development. This includes Policy 8 which manages development in the greenbelt, Policy 15 which promotes local living, including where feasible 20 minute neighbourhoods, and Policy 16 which focuses on delivering new homes that are designed to a high standard and located in sustainable places. Minimising and reducing emissions is also integral to the six qualities of successful places, as set out in Policy 14. Policies 17 and 29 support rural development which is compatible with climate change targets. Policy 24 facilitates the roll out of digital infrastructure, helping to reduce the need to travel. Policy 27 promotes a town centre first approach to development and Policy 28 restricts additional out of town retail development.

Policies relating to productive places are consistent with our ambition for green growth in the futures. More specifically, Policy 33 is clear that fossil fuel exploration, development and production (excluding unconventional oil and gas) will not be supported other than in exceptional circumstances, and that the Scottish Government does not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.

Cross-cutting Outcome And Policy Links: Improving Biodiversity

Our strategy and policies support development that helps to secure positive effects for biodiversity.

The nature crisis, together with the global climate emergency, underpinned the spatial strategy as a whole. The action areas include proposals which protect and enhance the natural environment.

Policy 1 gives significant weight to the nature crisis to ensure that it is recognised as a priority in all plans and decisions. Policy 4 protects and enhances natural heritage, and this is further supported by Policy 5 on soils and Policy 6 on forests, woodland and trees. Policy 20 also promotes the expansion and connectivity of blue and green infrastructure, whilst Policy 10 recognises the particular sensitivities of coastal areas.

Protection of the natural features of brownfield land is also highlighted in Policy 9, and protection of the green belt in Policy 8 will ensure that biodiversity in these locations is conserved and accessible to communities, bringing nature into the design and layout of our cities, towns, streets and spaces in Policy 14.

Most significantly, Policy 3 plays a critical role in ensuring that development will secure positive effects for biodiversity. It rebalances the planning system in favour of conserving, restoring and enhancing biodiversity and promotes investment in nature-based solutions, benefiting people and nature. The policy ensures that LDPs protect, conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity and promote nature recovery and nature restoration. Proposals will be required to contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity, including by restoring degraded habitats and building and strengthening nature networks. Adverse impacts, including cumulative impacts, of development proposals on the natural environment will be minimised through careful planning and design, taking into account the need to reverse biodiversity loss. Development proposals for national, major or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development will only be supported where it can be demonstrated that the proposal will conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity, including nature networks, so they are in a demonstrably better state than without intervention. Proposals for local development will include appropriate measures to conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity.

Liveable places

The global pandemic has left a social legacy that requires urgent, as well as long-term action. Many people need better places to support their lifelong health and wellbeing and build their future resilience. In recent years communities have found ways to work together to find local solutions to shared challenges. However, the cost crisis is again underlining the need for our future buildings and places to do more to support our long-term resilience.

There remain significant differences between the healthy life expectancy of people living in the most and least deprived parts of Scotland. More people need to be involved in planning their future places so that the built environment is safe and welcoming to everyone, including women, disabled people, children and young people and black and ethnic minority groups.

Scotland’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan sets out actions required to continue to reduce the number of children living in poverty. It recognises the importance of place and continued investment in regeneration, targeted to areas where the need is greatest.

Access to affordable, quality homes in better places, as supported by Housing to 2040, will make an important contribution to addressing the impact of the cost crisis, particularly on younger people who will also benefit from reduced transport costs. The planning system has an important role to play in supporting the delivery of homes which meet our future needs.

Consistent with this, Scotland’s Population Strategy reflects the need for planning to identify the amount of land required for future homes and to enable more balanced demographic change including sustainable rural development.

Health policies, including Scotland’s diet and healthy weight delivery plan reflect the importance of places which provide opportunities for exercise and access to healthy food. Our strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness also recognises the importance of providing quality, accessible and welcoming places for everyone through placemaking and regeneration.

National spatial strategy

Scotland’s future places will have homes and neighbourhoods that are healthier, affordable and vibrant places to live.

We have an opportunity to significantly improve our places, address longstanding inequality and eliminate discrimination, helping to transform our country for the better. Cleaner, safer and greener places and improved open spaces will build resilience and provide wider benefits for people, health and biodiversity, in a balanced way.

We will plan our future places in a way that improves local living, so that we live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient, safe and provides opportunites for learning. Quality homes will be better served by local facilities and services by applying the principles of local living to development proposals. The concept of 20 minute neighbourhoods will help to support this, particularly in more urban areas. In rural areas the approach to local living will be shaped by local context.

Planning must also enable the delivery of good quality, affordable homes by allocating enough land in the right locations to meet current and future needs and aspirations.

Recognising the need for liveable places to be consistent with our ambition for net zero and nature recovery, we will promote compact urban growth. Higher density development which will help to sustain public transport and support local living. Virtual connectivity and continued investment in active travel links will also be important.

We want to make better use of our spaces to support physical activity, relaxation and play, to bring people together and to celebrate our culture, diversity and heritage. Buildings and other physical assets can also support activities based on intangible cultural assets such as Gaelic language.

We will improve green infrastructure to bring nature into our towns and cities, connecting people with nature, building resilience and helping our biodiversity to recover and flourish. We will ensure we work towards a stronger infection-resilient society through adaptations to our buidlings and the spaces around them.

Our strategy is to value, enhance, conserve and celebrate our places and to build better communities for future generations. A stronger commitment to placemaking, through a design-led approach and a focus on quality, will ensure every new development improves the experience of our places.

Underpinning this, everyone must have an opportunity to help shape their local neighbourhoods. We will continue to work to broaden involvement in the planning system as a whole.

National developments

Six national developments support the delivery of liveable places:

  • Central Scotland Green Network restores nature at scale and acts as an exemplar of green infrastructure in placemaking that provides benefits for communities and supports a wellbeing economy. This will provide multiple benefits for health, biodiversity, and will help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Action should continue to focus on areas where community wellbeing and resilience would benefit most.
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network strengthens and extends a national active travel network to reduce emissions from transport, focusing on areas where improvements to accessibility are most needed.
  • Edinburgh Waterfront creates a high quality, mixed use, locally liveable place, contributing to the sustainable future development of Scotland’s capital city.
  • Dundee Waterfront delivers a high quality, mixed use, locally liveable place demonstrating resilient waterfront regeneration which anticipates and responds to climate impacts.
  • Stranraer Gateway acts as a hub for surrounding communities. Regeneration will help create a high quality, mixed use, locally liveable place, optimising the area as a national and international gateway.
  • A Digital Fibre Network enhances the connectivity of communities and help to facilitate more sustainable ways of living including in rural and island communities.

Cross-cutting Outcome And Policy Links: A Fair And Inclusive Planning System

Our strategy and policies support development that helps to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

We expect everyone involved in planning to take steps to ensure that a wide range of people are involved in shaping their future places. Planning authorities are required to respect, protect and fulfil human rights in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998. As per the Equality Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality duty is applicable and Equality Impact Assessments, Fairer Scotland Duty Assessments and where applicable Island Communities Impact Assessments are required for LDPs. The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child also means that young people must be encouraged to play an active role in planning.

Throughout the planning system, opportunities are available to engage in development planning and decisions about future development. Such engagement, undertaken in line with statutory requirements, should be early, collaborative, meaningful and proportionate. Support or concern expressed on matters material to planning must be given careful consideration in the determination of development proposals.

Our places can only work for everyone if the views of all users are properly understood, but experience shows that some people can find it more challenging to engage with planning.

There are opportunities to involve a wider range of people in the planning system. It is essential, and a statutory requirement, that people with protected characteristics, including disability, race, age, sex and sexual orientation, and including people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, are given particular support to express their views on plans and decisions, with consultations designed to meet the communication needs of people.

The spatial strategy as a whole is clear that our future development must support a just transition, and it highlights opportunities for development and regeneration that are designed to tackle social, economic and health inequalities. Policy 14, focusing on the six qualities of successful places recognises that diversity is an integral part of placemaking. Children and young people will have an important contribution to make, given the long-term impacts of planning for future generations. Women, as well as disabled people and their representatives, can ensure that barriers and challenges of the design of our living and working environments are tackled effectively. We have also provided clear support for development that will help to ensure human rights are maintained, for example: Policy 16 on quality homes which addresses the need for accommodation for Gypsy/Travellers and Travelling Showpeople yards, as well as homes for older people and disabled people; and Policy 21 which supports and facilitates spaces and opportunities for play, recreation and sport in our natural and built environments for children and people for all ages.

Our impact assessment has demonstrated that there is potential for significant benefits from more sustainable, liveable and productive places which will be delivered by these and other policies. We recognise that delivery will also depend on fair and inclusive engagement with people, and we will therefore continue to promote best practice and innovation, including in guidance on effective community engagement.

Cross-cutting Outcome And Policy Links: Homes That Meet Our Diverse Needs

Our strategy and policies support development that helps to meet the housing needs of people living in Scotland including, in particular, the housing needs of older people and disabled people.

The spatial strategy has taken into account future population and household projections, and highlights areas where there will be particular challenges arising from an ageing population. Spatial principles, including local living and just transition, will also help to ensure that the needs of all people are reflected in our future places.

Policy 16 supports the delivery of high quality, sustainable homes that meet the needs of people throughout their lives. In particular, it supports proposals for new homes that improve affordability and choice by being adaptable to changing and diverse needs, and which address identified gaps in provision. This could include: accessible, adaptable and wheelchair accessible homes; homes that meet the needs of older people; a range of size of homes; and other specialist groups.

The majority of older people want to remain in their home as they age, preferring mainstream housing, and so accessible and adaptable homes can allow people to continue to live independently. The close alignment of planning and housing delivery at the local level, through LDPs and Local Housing Strategies, will help to deliver the right type and mix of homes in the right locations. In addition Housing to 2040 sets out a commitment to Scottish Accessible Home Standard in 2025/26.

Development that provides homes to meet the needs of older people and disabled people will be further promoted by LDPs. Evidence reports will explain the action taken to support and promote the construction and/ or adaptation of homes to meet their needs. Spatial strategies will take into account housing needs and the availability of land for new homes, including for older people and disabled people through the Accessible Home Standard, wheelchair housing targets and the consideration of accessibility in design of the wider development and local amenity. The planning authority must also keep their plan under review, and monitor any changes in this.

Placemaking and choices about the location of development will also help to meet the needs of older people and disabled people. Policy 14 supports development that is consistent with the six qualities of successful places, including health and wellbeing, and safe and pleasant places for people to meet. Policy 15 supports development that is consistent with the principles of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods, helping to ensure our homes and wider neighbourhoods meet all of our needs. As part of this, it recognises that affordable housing options, ability to age in place and housing diversity are an integral part of more liveable places. Policy 13 is also clear that the views of disabled people must be sought when seeking to reduce reliance on the car including by managing car parking provision.

Productive places

The economic performance of different parts of Scotland varies considerably, with challenges and opportunities for different places and sectors. At present, some communities are particularly affected by high rates of poverty, one in five people of working age is economically inactive, and there is significant scope to improve our productivity and the scale and rate of business development.

The unprecedented challenge of the pandemic has created difficult conditions for some sectors including hospitality, tourism, and culture. The cost crisis and our exit from the European Union have combined with this to exacerbate labour shortages particularly in our more remote, rural and island communities. World-wide supply chain issues have generated severe challenges, including for the construction sector.

Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation aims to make Scotland a successful place with opportunities for everyone, in every region of Scotland, to share in our economic prosperity. It tackles the challenges of structural inequality, the transition to net zero, and achieving a green recovery from the pandemic. It also supports entrepreneurship and aims to play to the strengths and assets of each part of Scotland to build community wealth.

Building community wealth should be founded on an assessment of local assets in partnership with communities. It also involves better co-ordinated state investment at national, regional and local levels to strengthen of Scotland’s indigenous business base and create sustainable fair work opportunities. Opportunities will flow from more land and assets being placed in the hands of communities or under their guiding influence.

Our city centres are socially and culturally important, supporting our productivity and stimulating innovation and investment. The pandemic has generated severe impacts and longer term challenges for these places. The City Centre Recovery Taskforce has developed a shared vision for their future with support from the City Centre Recovery Fund for recovery and repurposing. Through playing their part in the delivery of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, Scotland’s cities have a nationally significant opportunity to contribute to Scotland’s economic recovery and to achieve a wellbeing economy.

The Town Centre Action Plan Review and our subsequent response recognises the critical importance of planning with and for communities sets a new vision for town centres, and reaffirms our commitment to the Town Centre First Principle. It recognises the critical importance of planning in diversifying the offer within our city and town centres, to help them thrive, improve their resilience and anticipate continuing societal, environmental and economic change. The Place Based Investment Programme supports our commitment to town centre action, places, local living and community wealth building.

National spatial strategy

Our future places will attract new investment, build business confidence, stimulate GDP, export growth and entrepreneurship, and facilitate future ways of working.

Planning will play a key role in creating a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy, with thriving and innovative businesses, quality jobs and fair work for everyone.

We will actively encourage investment where it is needed most by rebalancing development. This will play to the economic strengths and opportunities of each part of Scotland. Significant investment opportunities include strategic sites which were previously a focus for industrial activity but which have experienced decline. These locations will play a significant role in our transition to net zero as they are served by strategic infrastructure, well located on or close to developed coasts, and could provide added benefits for communities that are in greatest need. They also include areas that have been overlooked historically, but which are now strategically located for extensive renewable energy generation.

Planning can enable diversification of city, town and commercial centres, to better manage their role and respond to ongoing changes to the way we shop and access services. The way we work is changing, and we will need to be flexible to facilitate future business and employment that benefits communities and improves places. Digital connectivity will play a crucial role in supporting sustainable work in the future.

The way we plan our places can contribute to our short term recovery, as well as longer term restructuring to tackle long standing inequalities. Our strategy is to build a wellbeing economy that benefits everyone, and every place, in Scotland. We want the planning system to create a society that is thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions, and that delivers prosperity for all.

Scotland’s national and international connectivity for people and freight will remain important, for the economic, social and cultural benefits it delivers and for supporting wider Government ambitions on trade, tourism, and business development. Airports, ports and rail links will provide vital connections within Scotland and beyond which will be crucial to building on a sustainable recovery whilst helping to decarbonise transport through low and zero emissions technologies. Looking ahead, there will also be opportunities to build on inclusive growth within communities and support economic transformation through Green Freeports in Scotland.

Rural revitalisation, achieved by distributing development, investment and infrastructure strategically and by actively enabling rural development in particular, will play an important role in this. Key sectors including energy and food and drink focus on natural resources and provide signficant employment in rural parts of Scotland. These sectors also depend on supporting services and access to markets and there is significant potential for associated investment to develop a sustainable supply chain. Digital connectivity will also be critical to their continued succes.

Urban areas are a focus for investment in the built environment and many of our industries and businesses are located in and around our cities. These areas will also be more attractive to future investors and their employees if they are greener and healthier places to live.

National developments

Six national developments support the delivery of productive places:

  • Clyde Mission brings together substantial public and private investment to remediate and regenerate brownfield land along the River Clyde for economic, social and environmental uses.
  • Aberdeen Harbour facilitates completion of the South Harbour and access to it as well as a more mixed use waterfront for Aberdeen on areas of the harbour that will not in future be required for port uses. This will contribute to international and national connectivity, freight and the renewable energy sector.
  • Industrial Green Transition Zones support transformation of key sites including by putting in place the infrastructure needed to commercialise carbon capture and storage and decarbonise industry. Innovation will provide green jobs, reduce emissions and help Scotland lead the way on new technologies.
  • Hunterston Strategic Asset supports re‑use the port and wider site, engaging in new technologies and creating opportunities from nuclear decommissioning to make best use of existing infrastructure and provide local benefits.
  • Chapelcross Power Station Redevelopment involves the reuse of a key site to provide a range of economic opportunities for local communities. Energy produced will help to reduce heating and transport emissions within the wider region.
  • High Speed Rail ensures connectivity with the United Kingdom (UK) and beyond, reduce long distance transport emissions and optimise the benefits more widely.

Cross-cutting Outcome And Policy Links: rural revitalisation

Our strategy and policies support development that helps to retain and increase the population of rural areas of Scotland.

The spatial strategy reflects a wide range of proposals for development in rural areas, supported by national developments that recognise the potential and need to expand key sectors including renewable energy, sustainable transport and green infrastructure.

Policy 17 promotes the development of rural homes, to ensure the needs of communities are met in a sustainable way. Similarly, Policy 29 encourages development that will contribute to rural economies and communities. Development proposals that contribute to the viability, sustainability and diversity of rural businesses are supported while ensuring planning policies take into consideration local characteristics. Both policies support development in previously inhabited areas in a way that is guided by LDPs. Greater constraint will be applied in areas of pressure whilst in rural areas with fragile communities, a more enabling approach has been taken to support communities to be sustainable and thrive. LDPs are required to set out an appropriate approach to development in areas of pressure and decline informed by an understanding of population change and settlement characteristics and how these have changed over time as well as an understanding of the local circumstances including housing and travel.

Many policies will also play an important role in supporting rural communities and population growth. Some focus on supporting sustainable development in key sectors for rural areas such as Policy 30 on tourism, which aims to ensure community, environmental and business considerations are fully taken into account. Policy 32 encourages sustainable aquaculture, whilst Policy 10 supports development in coastal areas that takes into account future vulnerability to climate change. Policy 11 supports opportunities for renewable energy development whilst Policy 24 will support the delivery of digital infrastructure to support investment and population growth in rural areas.

Care has been taken to ensure policies reflect the specific needs and constraints of rural areas. Policy 13 ensures that in assessing the transport impacts of development, the area’s needs and characteristics are taken into account. Policy 15 aims to promote local living in broad terms, including through 20 minute neighbourhoods where practical, recognising varying settlement patterns and the particular characteristics and challenges of different areas in applying these principles in practice. Policy 28 also recognises the importance of retail facilities for rural communities and economies.

Alongside this, recognising that environmental quality is a key asset for rural areas, Policies 3, 4, 5 and 6 ensure that natural assets are protected and enhanced.

Cross-cutting Outcome And Policy Links: Lifelong Health And Wellbeing

Our strategy and policies support development that helps to improve health and wellbeing. The spatial strategy as a whole recognises that there are significant health inequalities in Scotland that future development can help to address. The spatial principles aim to ensure that future development is directed to sustainable locations, recognising that the role of planning in supporting development in places which would benefit most from regeneration and investment.

The natural environment is fundamental to our health and wellbeing from the benefits we get from being in nature to the design and delivery of blue and green infrastructure. Policies 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 manage the effects of development on biodiversity and on natural places. Policy 20 supports development that will provide good quality, accessible greenspaces and nature networks and Policy 21 supports development that will provide opportunities for sport and play. Active travel is encouraged by Policy 13 with walking and cycling providing wider health benefits.

Policy 23 helps to protect health and wellbeing, including by ensuring that air and noise pollution are taken into account, and by planning and managing development to take hazards into account. Policy 22 ensures that future flood risk is not exacerbated by development, and facilitates the delivery of sustainable flood risk management solutions. Policy 10 manages development to reflect future vulnerability of coastal areas. Policy 9 encourages the redevelopment of brownfield land, helping to reduce the impact of vacant and derelict sites on communities.

Housing plays a critical role in supporting our health and wellbeing. Policy 16 enables the delivery of well planned, good quality, affordable, safe and warm homes. Alongside this, Policy 13 supports development that provides, or is accessible by active travel and Policy 15 ensures people have access to facilities from their homes, including healthcare facilities. Development is also required to take into account the capacity and any additional needs for community services and facilities, as part of the infrastructure first approach set out in Policy 18.

Policy 14 applies the six qualities of successful places to development proposals, including health and wellbeing. As part of this it prioritises key aspects including women’s safety and suicide risk and aims to ensure development does not undermine the amenity of our existing homes and places. Climate related mental and physical health effects will be addressed by the strategy as a whole and in particular by Policies 1 and 2 by ensuring future development minimises emissions and is built to reflect the future risks of climate change. Health and wellbeing will also be supported by development that helps us to transition to net zero, as reflected in Policy 11 on renewable energy, Policy 12 on zero waste, and Policy 19 on heat and cooling. Wider policies relating to economic development will have a further positive effect on overall health and wellbeing by supporting employment and investment in our places in a fair and sustainable way.

National Spatial Strategy
National Developments

Regional Spatial Priorities

North and West Coast and Islands

This part of Scotland will be at the forefront of our efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2045. It is a diverse area, from Shetland and Orkney in the north, to the Outer and Inner Hebrides and the coastal areas of Highland and Argyll and Bute. As one of the most renewable energy rich localities in Europe with significant natural resources, there is a real opportunity for this area to support our shared national outcomes.

Key centres where lifeline links provide access to the islands include Lerwick, Kirkwall, Stromness, Stornoway, Wick and Thurso, Ullapool, Mallaig and Oban, whilst Tarbert, Lochgilphead and Campbeltown are important hubs to the south of the area. These centres provide important services to their wider hinterlands. Local projects are ongoing, including the regeneration of Stromness, the Stornoway Deep Water Port development, the linked Islands Growth Deal Outer Hebrides Energy Hub project in Stornoway, and the Islands Growth Deal Knab Redevelopment project in Shetland.

The area has an exceptional environment with coastal and island landscapes that are an important part of our national identity. It is rich in biodiversity, sustaining many internationally significant ecological sites, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Geoparks in the North West Highlands and Shetland, and Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and species including some of the best remaining temperate rainforest sites in Europe. It has a rich history, language and distinctive cultural heritage including the St Kilda and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These key assets require careful management to ensure they continue to benefit communities.

There will be significant climate challenges for this part of Scotland. Island and coastal ecosystems, and the communities they support, are naturally more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea level rise and extreme events. Of particular concern are the impacts on vulnerable low-lying coastal zones and

infrastructure, with potentially wide-ranging effects from biodiversity loss to coastal erosion, flooding and landslips. If we do not take action to plan and build resilience, communities could suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change.

A climate and nature conscious approach to development of this area can help to tackle wider challenges. The Carbon Neutral Islands project will support six islands (Hoy, Islay, Great Cumbrae, Raasay, Barra and Yell) to become carbon neutral by 2040. This will act as a catalyst for further climate action across all Scottish islands to make more attractive, resilient and sustainable communities in the long-term.

The relatively high levels of community land ownership, particularly in the Outer Hebrides, and strong ties with the land and sea reflect this area’s strong sense of place and local resilience. Scotland’s National Islands Plan aims to grow the population and economy, improve transport and housing, and ensure island communities are served by the facilities, jobs, education and services they need to flourish. Environmental wellbeing, clean and affordable energy, strong communities, culture and identity are also priorities.

Around 94 of Scotland’s 900 islands are permanently inhabited. The size and composition of each population has changed over the years and continues to do so. Whilst most recent estimates indicate population growth across the majority of local authority areas with islands, population change within each area is more complex, with areas of growth and depopulation varying between islands and coastal communities, and across different strata of the population. An ageing population in some parts of the area will mean that we need to do more to reverse past patterns of population decline and sustain local facilities and services that support rural and dispersed communities.

Public service provision, transport, energy consumption, fuel poverty, child poverty and housing, including its affordability, will continue to be significant challenges. Employment varies across the area, and can tend to rely on the public sector, tourism and lower wage sectors,

limiting the scope and choice of skilled jobs in some locations. It can be difficult to attract and retain a local workforce to support some jobs, underlining the importance of building skills and promoting fair work principles to support future investment. Language skills are also important in many areas where Gaelic is used by the community.

Challenges from the end of free movement and changing markets, and the agriculture and fishing industries, will need support to ensure long-term sustainability, but there are also substantial economic opportunities presented by developments in sectors such as renewable energy generation.


Alongside Scotland’s marine planning authorities, we will work with the area’s exceptional assets and natural resources to build a more resilient future for island and coastal communities. By guiding RSS and LDPs in this area, our strategy aims to:

  • Maximise the benefits of renewable energy whilst enhancing blue and green infrastructure, decarbonising transport and building resilient connections.
  • Support coastal and island communities to become carbon neutral, thus contributing to net-zero commitments and reducing fuel poverty.
  • Seize the opportunities to grow the blue and green economy, recognising the world-class environmental assets that require careful management and opportunities to develop skills and diversify employment.

The following national developments will support delivery of the spatial strategy for this area:

  • Energy Innovation Development on the Islands
  • Pumped Hydro Storage
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure
  • Circular Economy Material Management Facilities
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network
  • Digital Fibre Network

Further detail about the priorities for this area is contained in Annex C. Further details of national developments are contained in Annex B.

North and West Coast and Islands


The Highlands of Scotland, Moray, mainland Argyll, northern parts of rural Stirling and Perthshire are world renowned for their stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Settlement patterns vary, from dispersed or low density crofting townships, to key centres such as Inverness, Ullapool, Dingwall, Grantown-on-Spey, Aviemore, Elgin, Pitlochry and Aberfeldy. Cairngorms National Park is a national asset with internationally significant habitats and landscapes and there is currently a proposal to make the Flow Country a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The northern part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park also extends into this area.

Emissions here are partly offset by the climate sequestration from land use and forestry so that the area acts as a net carbon sink overall. There are few sources of significant industrial emissions. Climate change risks include changing levels of rainfall, increased storm events, temperature rise, flood risk, rising sea levels and associated erosion. Tailored measures will be required to assist communities in adapting to climate change and transitioning to net zero.

This rural heartland is much more than a place of beauty and isolation. Many thriving communities live here, and they depend on local jobs and learning to support their quality of life. Some communities have experienced outmigration, particularly the loss of younger people, especially outwith Inverness. Further population decline is a future risk, particularly for the west and north. People often depend on the car and more limited access to services creates disadvantage, despite the quality of life and good health that many living here enjoy. An ageing population will put pressures on some services.

Parts of the area have recently experienced an accelerated increase in house prices. The pandemic has reinforced long standing issues of affordability and a more mobile remote workforce has been attracted to the area, adding increased pressure. Without intervention, access to affordable homes, jobs and services that enable local people, including young people, to stay in their communities could become more challenging. Fuel and transport poverty is a particular challenge towards the north and west and there are significant areas which do not currently benefit from good quality digital connectivity.

The area’s environmental quality, culture, language, landscape and wildlife sustain key economic sectors including tourism, food and drink, distilling and clean energy. Extensive areas of woodland and peatland act as a carbon sink, contributing significantly to our national sustainability. The area has a strong economy with growing income and low unemployment overall, but there remain pockets of deprivation both in urban areas and in more remote areas where there is a need for alternatives to low skilled and low paid jobs.


This part of Scotland can continue to make a strong contribution towards meeting our ambition for a net zero and nature positive country by demonstrating how natural assets can be managed and used to secure a more sustainable future. By guiding RSS and LDPs in this area, our strategy aims to:

  • Protect environmental assets and stimulate investment in natural and engineered solutions to climate change and nature restoration, whilst decarbonising transport and building resilient connections.
  • Maintain and help to grow the population by taking a positive approach to rural development that strengthens networks of communities.
  • Support local economic development by making sustainable use of the areas’ world-class environmental assets to innovate and lead greener growth.

The following national developments will also support delivery of the spatial strategy for this area:

  • Pumped Hydro Storage
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure
  • Circular Economy Material Management Facilities
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network
  • Digital Fibre Network

Further detail about the priorities for this area is contained in Annex C. Further details of national developments are contained in Annex B.


North East

The north east is a centre for the skills and expertise we will need to meet our climate change commitments. This area will evolve, through a just transition, to move industry and business away from the oil and gas sector towards a cleaner, greener future. Rich in natural assets, this area, along with the wider Moray and Cromarty Firths, has built on its oil and gas experience to pioneer new technologies. This makes it a uniquely investable proposition that could benefit Scotland as a whole. We can build on the area’s experience to find innovative solutions to climate change.

Emissions generated from this area arise mainly from transport, industrial and commercial activity and domestic properties, with land use and forestry providing carbon sequestration. Car ownership is particularly high in Aberdeenshire. Significant parts of the coast will be vulnerable to future climate impacts.

This area is amongst the most prosperous parts of Scotland, but has experienced significant economic challenges in recent years and has pockets of deprivation. The area comprises a mix of rural and urban communities, with the city of Aberdeen and a surrounding network of towns including Huntly, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Ellon, Inverurie and Stonehaven, and significant rural areas including countryside around Aberdeen city. Whilst parts of the area have experienced population decline, several settlements around Aberdeen have grown. Links from Aberdeenshire to communities in Moray, Angus and Tayside are also important.

Affordability and choice of homes is acute across the area, especially within Aberdeen. The growing proportion of retirees in Aberdeenshire presents a further challenge to housing and service delivery. There are lower levels of educational attainment and limited access to services for communities along the Aberdeenshire and Moray coast. Many of these places will benefit from further regeneration that builds on their identity and natural assets.

The excellent quality of the built environment, natural assets and cultural heritage already contribute to health and wellbeing in the area

and can form the basis of a transition to net zero. Some of our highest quality productive agricultural land is concentrated here, together with other land-based industries, and the economy benefits from a strong fishing industry, alongside its globally significant energy sector. The dominance of these sectors, together with wider changes including from the pandemic, European Union (EU) Exit and global markets, means that economic diversification and repurposing of buildings and infrastructure will be key priorities.


This part of Scotland will play a crucial role in achieving Just Transition to net zero. By guiding RSS and LDPs in this area, our strategy aims to:

  • Plan infrastructure and investment to support the transition from oil and gas to net zero whilst protecting and enhancing blue and green infrastructure and decarbonising connectivity.
  • Focus on continued regeneration through the principles of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods to sustain the skilled workforce and improve local liveability.
  • Support continued economic diversification and innovation.

The following national developments will also support delivery of the spatial strategy for this area:

  • Pumped Hydro Storage
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure
  • Circular Economy Material Management Facilities
  • Urban Mass/Rapid Transit Networks
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network
  • Digital Fibre Network
  • Aberdeen Harbour
  • Industrial Green Transition Zones

Further detail about the priorities for this area is contained in Annex C. Further details of national developments are contained in Annex B.

North East


We will only meet our climate change commitments if we make significant changes to the densely populated central belt of Scotland. Our urban communities will play a critical role in reducing the emissions generated by the way we live our lives.

This area includes the Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee and Perth city regions as well as networks of towns and smaller settlements, and more rural surroundings.

Many of our largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions are located in this area, including Grangemouth where industrial activity is concentrated, providing high value manufacturing and employment, and playing a key role in our resilience. Other key sources include industrial, manufacturing and waste management sites and facilities. Overall emissions from domestic properties and transport are high as a result of the area’s population density and the scale of daily movement within and between city regions. The growing risk of flooding could have significant impacts in the future, as many key settlements and economic assets are located on the Clyde, Forth and Tay estuaries.

We need to work together to decarbonise buildings and transport and tackle congestion, make more efficient use of existing land and buildings, generate renewable energy and establish supporting electricity and heat networks and create more inclusive, greener and sustainable places that will stand the test of time. By weaving blue and green infrastructure across our urban fabric we can ensure that nature and the outdoors are accessible to everyone, supporting lifelong health and wellbeing and creating places that are more resilient to flooding.

There are significant social and economic differences across the area – at a broad scale there are relatively high concentrations of poor health, child poverty, economic disadvantage and population decline in parts of the Glasgow city region contrasting with strong demand

and expected population growth in parts of the Edinburgh city region. The broad pattern is repeated for children living in poverty, who are more likely to live in the Glasgow city region. Across the area as a whole, however, there are localised areas of high and low deprivation.

As a nation we have a particular obligation to do more to tackle the concentration of poor health outcomes in west central Scotland. Action is needed to reduce inequality and improve health and wellbeing so that everyone is able to thrive. Better places can do more to support lifelong health and wellbeing by providing warm homes that are connected to services. Access to quality greenspace and nature-based solutions can help to mitigate health inequalities and improve physical and mental health, by providing opportunities for play, socialising, relaxation and physical activity. Developing our communities to promote local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods can help reduce inequalities in health. The frequency of urban car use can be reduced by improving local liveability and improved access to facilities, helping to reduce emissions and air pollution. Access to health and social care facilities will need to be built into our future places and can benefit from continuing investment in digital infrastructure and innovation.

Household projections show there will be a continuing demand for more homes across the most urban parts of Scotland. There has been a strong market, high levels of housebuilding and pressure on infrastructure in some ‘hot spots’ including the Edinburgh city region, Stirling and Falkirk, and Perth. In contrast, despite good connections and infrastructure capacity, it can be more challenging to encourage the market to deliver new homes particularly in parts of the west where unemployment is also higher.

There are also inequalities across each of the city regions, with local concentrations of economic deprivation and many former coalfield communities. Overall, economic performance is higher in Edinburgh and Glasgow and lower in surrounding areas including Inverclyde, Ayrshire, along parts of the Clyde Coast and Lanarkshire.

The diverse business base reflects nationally important sectors including financial services, business administration, life sciences, distribution and transport, retail and commercial, and manufacturing and production. City centres are experiencing significant challenges, caused or accelerated by the pandemic, but each retain a strong character and distinctive identity, offering opportunities for new business, homes, and services. Similar issues apply to the towns across this area.

A wellbeing economy goes beyond strategic investment sites to link more closely with the wellbeing of communities and their local environments. It will be critical to recognise the importance of anchor institutions who can support local investment in our places and natural and historic assets, provide education, employment and other services, and act as community hubs. Significant investment in our health and social care, justice and learning estates will continue to provide important sources of employment and income for smaller scale local businesses.

Around the area’s settlements there are many high quality environments, from World Heritage Sites, historic burghs and conservation areas to protected biodiversity sites of international importance, ancient woodlands and areas of high landscape quality, including the coastline, country and national parks, and canals. This brings opportunities for outdoor recreation within a short distance of the majority of Scotland’s population.

The coast is an integral part of the area’s identity, combining natural and cultural heritage and acting as a focus for investment and regeneration. We have made progress in restoring and reusing areas that were historically a focus for heavy industry and mining, leaving a legacy of disused sites and areas blighted by dereliction. Key sites for further investment include urban waterfronts and former industrial sites where existing infrastructure can be reused to support the transition to a low carbon economy.


A coherent strategy that focuses on climate change and responds to the challenges of the pandemic will drive forward change to tackle inequalities and build a new, greener, future for this part of the country. By guiding RSS and LDPs in this area, our strategy aims to:

  • Provide net zero energy solutions including extended heat networks and improved energy efficiency, together with urban greening and improved low carbon transport.
  • Pioneer low carbon, resilient urban living by rolling out networks of 20 minute neighbourhoods, future proofing city and town centres, accelerating urban greening, investing in net zero homes, and managing development on the edge of settlements.
  • Target economic investment and build community wealth to overcome disadvantage and support a greener wellbeing economy.

The following national developments will also support delivery of the spatial strategy for this area:

  • Pumped Hydro Storage
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure
  • Circular Economy Material Management Facilities
  • Urban Sustainable, Blue and Green Drainage Solutions
  • Urban Mass/Rapid Transit Networks
  • Central Scotland Green Network
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network
  • Edinburgh Waterfront
  • Dundee Waterfront
  • Digital Fibre Network
  • Clyde Mission
  • Industrial Green Transition Zones
  • Hunterston Strategic Asset
  • High Speed Rail

Further detail about the priorities for this area is contained in Annex C. Further details of national developments are contained in Annex B.



The South of Scotland is strategically important with a strong sense of identity centred on networks of towns and villages, supported by distinctive landscapes and coasts. This is a place with a rich cultural heritage and exceptional environmental assets and natural resources, such as the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere and Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. This area is ambitious for positive change in the coming years, and the immediate work to recover from the pandemic will form the basis of a longer term plan to respond to the challenges of climate change and support nature restoration and recovery.

Settlements across this area provide services to the surrounding rural communities. Towns are well placed to be models of sustainable living, with many undergoing regeneration. Larger settlements include Dumfries, Stranraer, Galashiels, Hawick, with a network of towns and villages throughout Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. The area extends northwards to include Ayrshire towns such as Ayr, Girvan, Dalmellington and Cumnock in the west, as well as towards the southern rural parts of East Lothian in the east and parts of South Lanarkshire including Biggar and Moffat. Beyond the towns there are many small settlements and rural homes, farms and smallholdings.

Cross border relationships are important in this area, together with strategic transport connections to England, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Emissions in this area are moderate, with transport and industry emissions being partly offset by land use. The area has significant areas of woodland and peatland which act as a carbon sink and form the basis for future investment opportunities. The few sites that are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions include industrial and commercial activities, including some food and drink processing facilities. Coastal erosion and flood risk is expected to be a significant challenge in the future, particularly where there is a risk of impacts on key transport corridors or settlements.

Working with communities to find new ways of rural living that are consistent with climate change will be a challenge for this part of Scotland, given the relatively high levels of dependence on the car, limited public transport, housing affordability challenges and the dispersed population.

Despite having high levels of wellbeing and quality of life, population decline is projected to continue in some regions to the west of the area, with fewer younger people and more retired people living in the area in the future. Economic diversification will help to address dependence on low wage and public sector employment.


Our strategy aims to ensure that this part of Scotland fulfils its potential. There is significant potential for the area to develop and increase recognition of it as a place to live, work and visit. By guiding RSS and LDPs in this area, our strategy aims to:

  • Protect environmental assets and stimulate investment in natural and engineered solutions to climate change and nature restoration, whilst decarbonising transport and building resilient physical and digital connections.
  • Increase the population by improving local liveability, creating a low carbon network of towns and supporting sustainable rural development.
  • Support local economic development whilst making sustainable use of the area’s world-class environmental assets to innovate and lead greener growth.

The following national developments will also support delivery of the spatial strategy for this area:

  • Pumped Hydro Storage
  • Strategic Renewable Electricity Generation and Transmission Infrastructure
  • Circular Economy Material Management Facilities
  • National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network
  • Stranraer Gateway
  • Digital Fibre Network
  • Clyde Mission
  • Chapelcross Power Station Redevelopment
  • High Speed Rail

Further detail about the priorities for this area is contained in Annex C. Further details of national developments are contained in Annex B.




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