Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4)

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the draft fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4). The National Planning Framework (NPF) is a long-term plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed.

Our response was facilitated through an RSE working group which included RSE Fellows and members of the Young Academy of Scotland with significant practitioner and research experience across academia and the planning, economic, health, heritage, development, engineering, and third sectors.

Pertinent themes of the draft Fourth National Planning Framework

Two subsequent roundtable discussions – which included Fellows, Young Academy of Scotland members, and representatives from key external stakeholders – were subsequently held to explore pertinent themes of the draft NPF4 in more detail:


Delivering NPF4


Big Picture Thinking and NPF4’s Spatial Principles

Ultimately, whilst the aspirational targets, objectives, and visions set out in the draft fourth National Planning Framework are laudable, the RSE has concerns over the deliverability and affordability of the solutions required to, for example, achieve Scotland’s target of achieving net zero emissions by 2045. NPF4 should adopt a proactive and future-focused development approach which accounts for the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises, the potential of Artificial Intelligence and big data solutions, and wider societal needs such as the wellbeing economy and shifting work patterns.

The pre-eminent contexts of NPF4 are the climate and biodiversity crises and the need for planned and positive de-growth. These unprecedented challenges require not only a vision but a policy-directed approach to future investment in infrastructure and existing assets, with aligned and effective delivery structures focussed on low carbon and circular economy investment and decision making.

The present planning system sits at the heart of this process and needs to be resourced and empowered to facilitate the essential step changes required in the present approach to development and investment if Scotland is to achieve net-zero.

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