Platforms for change
There are a number of platforms already available to take forward deeper conversations about sustainable land use. We highlight here two in particular: the ongoing development of the new National Planning Framework; and the Regional Land Use Partnership pilots. Through these, there is an opportunity to explore some of the issues and trade-offs outlined above, respectively on a national and regional scale, and seek solutions to them.
Development of the next National Planning Framework
Scotland's next National Planning Framework (NPF4) will be a long term spatial plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth out to 2050.
Meeting our ambitious targets for addressing climate change needs a fresh approach including the need to rebalance the planning system to ensure that climate change is a guiding principle for all plans and decisions. We have recently published our Position Statement on the new Framework, which sets out some of the core elements that will feature in NPF4. The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy
Post-2020: A Statement of Intent, published in December 2020, also signalled our plans to develop ambitious new proposals through NPF4 to secure positive effects for biodiversity through development.
While the NPF4 position statement highlights the direction of travel, work will continue to shape and refine the thinking before the full draft NPF4 is set out for further consultation. It is expected that this will take place this autumn (2021) and will provide a platform for wider scale discussions around land use and its impacts on all of our lives in Scotland.
Highlights from the Position Statement
NPF4 will embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals, align with the outcomes in the National Performance Framework and incorporate Scottish Planning Policy (SPP). It will also guide spatial development, set out our national policies, designate national developments and reflect regional spatial priorities. For example emerging Regional Spatial Strategies and their proposals for strategic development will be brought together to help reduce emissions and align with emerging thinking on wider regional land use.
The spatial strategies and policies will reflect the needs and aspirations of people living throughout Scotland by building quality places that work for everyone. This includes exploring options for 20 minute neighbourhoods, and how a new emphasis on living locally could work in different parts of Scotland.
National Planning policies will work to develop a vision for the future use of vacant and derelict land so that regional strategies and local development plans can work collectively to unlock the potential of land within our existing settlements to provide multiple benefits.
Importantly, NPF4 will consider how peatland can be protected from further development, given its role in carbon sequestration.
Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs)
We are committed to enabling Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) to emerge locally in 2021, and to develop Regional Land Use Frameworks by 2023. The Scottish Land Commission were asked to provide advice on the establishment of RLUPs and published their advice in November 2020. Their recommendations are ambitious and high level. To support our evaluation of their advice, the Scottish Government will be testing approaches and practicalities (in particular around governance and local engagement) by supporting the establishment this year of a set of pilot RLUPs. In line with the Scottish Land Commission advice on aligning RLUPs with the groupings of planning authorities developing Regional Spatial Strategies, the five pilot RLUPs are also Regional Spatial Strategy areas:
- Cairngorms National Park;
- Highland Council Region;
- Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park;
- North East Region (Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils); and
- South of Scotland (Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders Councils).
These regions responded to our request for volunteers, and represent a good diversity of land types: cities and towns, farmland, semi-natural land including forests and peatland, and coastal. We recognise that the diversity of Scotland's landscapes and communities mean that 'one size does not fit all' and we will be encouraging each pilot to adopt a structure that meets regional requirements and engages collaboratively with local communities and stakeholders in their regions. The aim of the pilots is to test governance options and partnership working on a regional scale to understand how best to work collaboratively; develop a framework to identify potential land use changes; and to facilitate and signpost funding opportunities for land owners, managers and community groups.
These pilots will build on the earlier, smaller regional land use pilots completed in Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders in 2013-2015, learning lessons from those and from the evaluation, which concluded that working collaboratively and regionally can achieve local objectives but that considerably more development of the concept was needed. These five pilots will test and develop approaches at scale, in support of our green recovery and tackling the climate and biodiversity crises.
RLUPs will help national and local government, communities, land owners and stakeholders work together to find ways to optimise sustainable land use in a fair and inclusive way - meeting local and national objectives and helping achieve Scotland's climate change targets through land use change and good land management that supports a sustainable future.
Once their structure is established, each pilot will focus on developing its own Regional Land Use Framework by 2023. Frameworks will take a natural capital/ecosystem approach to identify at a landscape level potential land use changes with positive climate and environmental impacts. They will set out regional land use and environmental objectives and link these to wider regional goals (such as, for example, those in Regional Spatial Strategies).