Scottish planning policy

Policy statement on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)


i. The purpose of the SPP is to set out national planning policies which reflect Scottish Ministers' priorities for operation of the planning system and for the development[1] and use of land. The SPP promotes consistency in the application of policy across Scotland whilst allowing sufficient flexibility to reflect local circumstances. It directly relates to:

  • the preparation of development plans;
  • the design of development, from initial concept through to delivery; and
  • the determination of planning applications and appeals.


ii. The SPP is a statement of Scottish Government policy on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country. It is non-statutory. However, Section 3D of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) 1997 Act requires that functions relating to the preparation of the National Planning Framework by Scottish Ministers and development plans by planning authorities must be exercised with the objective of contributing to sustainable development. Under the Act, Scottish Ministers are able to issue guidance on this requirement to which planning authorities must have regard. The Principal Policy on Sustainability is guidance under section 3E of the Act.

iii. The 1997 Act requires planning applications to be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. As a statement of Ministers' priorities the content of the SPP is a material consideration that carries significant weight, though it is for the decision-maker to determine the appropriate weight in each case. Where development plans and proposals accord with this SPP, their progress through the planning system should be smoother.

iv. The SPP sits alongside the following Scottish Government planning policy documents:

  • the National Planning Framework (NPF)[2], which provides a statutory framework for Scotland's long-term spatial development. The NPF sets out the Scottish Government's spatial development priorities for the next 20 to 30 years. The SPP sets out policy that will help to deliver the objectives of the NPF;
  • Creating Places[3], the policy statement on architecture and place, which contains policies and guidance on the importance of architecture and design;
  • Designing Streets[4], which is a policy statement putting street design at the centre of placemaking. It contains policies and guidance on the design of new or existing streets and their construction, adoption and maintenance; and
  • Circulars[5], which contain policy on the implementation of legislation or procedures.

v. The SPP should be read and applied as a whole. Where 'must' is used it reflects a legislative requirement to take action. Where 'should' is used it reflects Scottish Ministers' expectations of an efficient and effective planning system. The Principal Policies on Sustainability and Placemaking are overarching and should be applied to all development. The key documents referred to provide contextual background or more detailed advice and guidance. Unless otherwise stated, reference to Strategic Development Plans (SDP) covers Local Development Plans outwith SDP areas. The SPP does not restate policy and guidance set out elsewhere. A glossary of terms is included at the end of this document.



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