Scotland Policy Conferences

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email

Next steps for planning reform in Scotland - the National Planning Framework, net-zero targets, and adapting regulations in the wake of the pandemic

Morning, Tuesday, 12th January 2021

This conference will bring together policymakers and key stakeholders to assess the future for the planning system in Scotland - including the impact of COVID-19.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with a range of key policy officials who are due to attend from The Scottish Government as well as from Transport Scotland.

The discussion at a glance:

  • The National Planning Framework 4 - developing a NPF4 that will meet Scotland’s infrastructure priorities into the future, including supporting communities across Scotland
  • COVID-19 - planning regulations in the wake of the pandemic and the role planning policy can support businesses in adapting to the new normal
  • the Planning Act - assessing implications and next steps, including the areas of funding, support and coordination, as well as for helping to towards the move to net-zero

The timing and context for the discussion:

  • the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) - as the Scottish Government begins the development, following the passage of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019
  • the interim position statement on the new Framework - expected from The Scottish Government later this autumn ahead of a draft to be presented to The Scottish Parliament in September 2021, with the final adoption of NPF4 now expected in the spring or summer of 2022
  • COVID-19 - the introduction of interim measures during the pandemic
  • Scottish Planning Policy and Housing consultation - on proposed Government amendments to housing planning policy
  • recent Planning obligations recommendations - from the Law Society of Scotland’s Planning Law Committee for The Scottish Government to make amendments to planning policy to improve the efficiency and transparency of the process
  • building regulations - reported concerns from some architects in Scotland regarding the UK Internal Market Bill, and the possible implications for aligning building regulations in Scotland with the rest of the UK

Key areas for discussion:

The Planning (Scotland) Act

  • key aims - the way forward for strengthening the planning system so that it contributes more to economic growth, housing and infrastructure delivery and community empowerment
  • local place plans - implications of the introduction of plans drawn up by community bodies which have to be taken into account by local authorities when they are taking planning decisions:
    • local authorities - the likely impact of the plans system on LAs and the decision making process
    • who else will be involved - which groups are likely to gain influence from the introduction of local place plans amidst concerns that the Act will lessen community empowerment and public trust in the planning system because of the removal of the right to appeal
  • climate change - the role of the planning system in helping to accelerate the reduction in emissions:
    • planning permission - implications of Scottish Government proposals for developments that will radically help address climate change not to require permission, including electric vehicle charging and local renewable energy
    • sustainable design - how it can be encouraged, including older structures being redesigned to meet modern standards

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4)

  • scope and ambition - with The Scottish Government suggesting that NPF4 will be radically different, discussing how it will expand on the current framework and what more it might advocate
  • stakeholder input - assessing ideas following National Planning Framework 4 - call for ideas: Key Agencies Group response as The Scottish Government develops the Framework for presentation in draft form to The Scottish Parliament next September
  • infrastructure - how best to support Scotland’s infrastructure plans with:
    • a spatial plan for Scotland - which will look ahead through to 2050, to be developed as part of the new Framework
    • an infrastructure levy on land - the Planning Act making provision for its introduction use payable to local authorities - how to successfully introduce the levy following concerns surrounding:
      • its complexity for LAs in terms of rollout
      • the potentially limited funds it will raise following the introduction of a similar system in England
  • rural planning policy - assessing Rural Planning Policy to 2050: research findings for the Scottish Government, which will inform NPF4, and;
    • its call for the needs of different areas to be taken into account
    • the particular planning challenges identified in rural Scotland such as demographic trends, pressure on the rural economy, climate change, and the supply of land for development

The agenda:

  • Next steps for delivering planning reform
  • Adapting planning regulations in the wake of COVID-19 - supporting continued commercial activity, incorporating innovative design, and assessing the changes that are needed to adapt to the new normal
  • The role of planning in meeting the net-zero target - delivering sustainable design, priorities for investment, and redesigning current structures to meet modern standards
  • Priorities for the shape and delivery of NPF4 - meeting Scotland’s infrastructure priorities and adapting to regional needs

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from The Scottish Government and Transport Scotland.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from local authorities, regulators and other agencies, planning professionals, representatives from the infrastructure, engineering, construction and energy sectors, architects, lawyers, environmental and advocacy groups, consultants and academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

John McNairney

Chief Planner, The Scottish Government


Sarah Boyack MSP

Deputy Convenor, Local Government and Communities Committee


Debbie Mackay

Director - Planning, Edinburgh and Head of Scottish Rural Planning, Savills

Neil Gardiner

Convener, Planning Committee, The City of Edinburgh Council

Nicola Woodward

Senior Director, Head of Office - Edinburgh, Lichfields

Ann Allen

Chief Executive Officer, Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

Rob Forrest

Chief Executive, GreenPower

Kevin Murray

Urban Planner and Community Consultation Facilitator, Kevin Murray Associates

Gordon Nelson

Scotland Director, Federation of Master Builders

Craig McLaren

Director of Scotland and Ireland, Royal Town Planning Institute

Forbes Barron

Head of Planning and Building Standards, Glasgow City Council

Professor David Adams

Scottish Land Commissioner and Emeritus Professor in Urban Studies, University of Glasgow

Fiona Campbell

Chief Executive Officer, The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers

Dr David Grierson

Reader in Architecture and Deputy Head of Architecture, University of Strathclyde

Gavin Mowat

Policy Advisor (Rural Communities), Scottish Land and Estates