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Chamber and committees

Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee

Scottish Parliament Scrutiny of the Draft National Planning Framework 4

Letter from the Convener to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Economy and Fair Work Equalities, Human Rights and Fair Work and Health, Social Care and Sport Committees

I am writing to you regarding the forthcoming draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) which, as you will be aware, the Scottish Government has committed to publishing in the autumn. I am writing to propose a collaborative approach which could be adopted by the committees of the Scottish Parliament to ensure maximum scrutiny of this important document which provides a framework for planning decisions and developments for the next decade.  A collaborative approach to scrutiny could result in this important strategy document receiving comprehensive and thorough analysis from Committee Members with expertise in the subject areas covered by the document. 


The third National Planning Framework was considered by several Scottish Parliamentary committees in 2014, and each reported separately on their findings.  Since then, the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 has doubled the number of days available to the Scottish Parliament to consider the draft. 

Proposed Approach  

Procedure for scrutiny of the draft NPF4 – Phase One 

The draft NPF4 is expected to be published imminently and will set out a spatial strategy for the delivery of Scottish Government policy.   

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee is working on the basis of this being published in late November but will keep this under review in discussions with the Scottish Government.   

The procedure for scrutiny of a copy of the draft NPF4 requires it to be laid in the Scottish Parliament and for the Scottish Government to consider representations made to it during a period of 120 days (not including recesses of more than 4 days) from the date of laying.   

Once laid it is open to any committee to consider relevant aspects of the draft and report to Parliament, after which we propose securing a Chamber debate.  

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee proposes a co-ordinated approach across parliamentary committees—  

That each subject committee takes the lead in scrutinising policies and proposals within its remit;  

To issue a joint call for views on behalf of participating committees and to work as collaboratively as possible in relation to stakeholder communications, engagement and on media work;  

To maximise the time available for scrutiny, by each committee taking evidence and writing to the relevant Cabinet Secretary within the 120 period to secure a response in time for a debate; and 

To seek to lodge a motion in the names of the conveners of all committees who reported on the draft NPF4 for the Chamber debate.  

Subjects and themes  

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee proposes that each committee scrutinises the parts of the framework aligned to its remit, depending on the structure of the draft document as laid.  

The Scottish Government published a Position Statement in November 2020, setting out its intentions for the NPF4. Based on this document and current discussions with the Scottish Government, the remits of a number of committees are expected to be engaged, including—  

Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment – rural affairs, agriculture, forestry, and food and drink industry, implications for islands. 

Net Zero, Energy and Transport – net zero emissions, land use, transport, infrastructure, energy use, natural environment. 

Economy and Fair Work – economic recovery, digital infrastructure, tourism. 

Health, Social Care and Sport – health and wellbeing 

Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice – equalities and human rights 

Key Questions 

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee suggests the following key questions could be the focus for scrutiny— 

Whether consultation during the preparation of the NPF4 was adequate 

How well does the draft NPF deliver on the 6 outcomes required by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 

meeting housing needs 

supporting efforts to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets 

improving health and wellbeing 

repopulating rural areas 

improving equality 

securing "positive effects for biodiversity" 

Does the framework complement and support the aims of other Scottish Government strategies and targets 

Timetable for Consideration 

If a copy of the draft NPF4 is laid in late November, the LGHP Committee anticipates issuing an immediate joint call for evidence, taking oral evidence in February and March and reporting to Parliament in late April.  

The Committee proposes you write to the relevant Cabinet Secretary with your conclusions, copying in the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, in late March 2022 (depending on the date of laying).  The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee will report to the Scottish Parliament and pull together all the conclusions outlined in the letters of the relevant Committees.   

Procedure for scrutiny of the draft NPF4 – Phase Two 

At the close of the 120 day period, the Scottish Government must lay a draft NPF4 before Parliament for approval by resolution. This draft must be accompanied by an explanatory document, which must set out any changes made in response to the consulatation or why changes have not been made. The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee proposes committees may also wish to consider this draft prior to Parliament considering the document.  As such, I have written to the Scottish Parliament Bureau requesting business is scheduled to allow sufficient time for scrutiny of the final draft. 

Next Steps  

I would be grateful if you could consider the suggested approach with members of your Committee and respond to this letter confirming your support of the proposed approach to scrutiny. I would appreciate your response to this letter by 11 November 2021.  

The LGHP Committee clerks are in discussion with your clerks and will be available to provide further information to you if that is helpful.  

I look forward to hearing from you.  

Yours sincerely 

Ariane Burgess 

Convener, Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee