What the Election Manifestos Say

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Thursday is election day. Many of you will already have made up your minds about where your vote should go. We have had a look through the party manifestos to see what the different parties are promising. Of course, manifesto promises are often broken, proposals are watered down or not delivered and the devil is always in the detail. However, we hope this may prove a useful summary, especially to hold future winning party’s feet to the fire to uphold their election promises.

What parties are saying on planning issues relevant to Planning Democracy supporters and campaigns

Equal Rights of Appeal

There is only mention of a community right of appeal from the Green Party. They say

We continue to support communities having appeal rights, but until it happens, we will demand improvements to public engagement at every stage of planning.

Interestingly, although Labour put forward amendments on community right to appeal in the 2019 planning bill, there is a hint that this could be historical, we hope is just down to unfortunate wording or editing. “We sought to amend the Planning Bill to give individuals and environmental organisations the right to challenge decisions that will severely impact the environment”.

The Conservatives don’t mention community rights of appeal but they state that they “will amend planning laws, so that the Scottish Government cannot overturn a local planning decision. This would ensure that major developments require engagement with communities and that national infrastructure needs to deliver clear local benefits to those that will be affected by it”.

Local Place Plans

Only the Green Party have talked about Local Place Plans in their manifesto. They say “Local Place Plans are a new tier of community-led development planning that need actioned. We will equip communities and councils with the tools and power to investigate their own development needs and plan their futures.”

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4)

The NPF4 is the most influential planning document in Scotland which will guide planning decisions for the next 10 years.

The Lib Dems have specified their intentions for the new national planning framework:

Make sure access to green, open spaces, wildlife corridors and woodland is available to every community. Protect green belts and gaps between settlements for the long-term benefit of local communities, the climate and nature. Create a Brownfield First policy, under which planning applicants should demonstrate that no brownfield land is available for their proposal before permission can be granted on greenfield sites.

Labour and Greens, supports a Nature Network for Scotland through the National Planning Framework 4.

Conservatives and SNP support nature networks (but don’t mention this as part of NPF4).

Greens say they “will ensure that the new national planning framework and alignment of community, spatial and transport planning bring about vibrant 15 minute neighbourhoods”.

Community empowerment and deliberative democracy

The Greens, Lib Dems and SNP champion citizens assemblies, a form of deliberative democracy that involves the public helping to inform decision making. The Greens have talked about it in terms of local and national policies. Planning Democracy are keen to see many different forms of deliberative democratic engagement mechanisms, but have asked specifically for a citizen’s assembly to help decide national developments. No party has suggested they be used for this purpose.

What each party says

Below we have tried to capture some of what the different parties are promising in terms of planning, but also some broader policies on land, tax, environment that may affect how Scotland is developed. Some policies are more transformational than others, but we will let you decide.  

Disclaimer: we have tried to be fair and give a flavour of what the parties are saying, we may not have been comprehensive, if you want to find out more you can read the party manifestos (links to each at the end).

We have put the parties in alphabetical order.


Scotland will need tens of thousands of new homes over the next five years.

However, we know that new housing developments put pressure on existing local services like roads, schools and shops. Far too many villages, towns and cities in Scotland have seen new housing estates created, with little thought of how this will impact on essential local infrastructure. In our rush to build new housing, we have failed to build new communities.

There are over 47,000 long-term unoccupied properties in Scotland. In many cases these properties are dilapidated and have become a blight on our communities. We would introduce Compulsory Sales Orders for long-term unoccupied properties in Scotland.

We would amend planning laws, so that the Scottish Government cannot overturn a local planning decision. This would ensure that major developments require engagement with communities and that national infrastructure needs to deliver clear local benefits to those that will be affected by it.

Closed shutters and ‘to let’ signs are a blight on our town centres and high streets, a reminder of their decline. To tackle this, we would support communities’ ‘first right to buy’ when local businesses are facing closing their doors. To increase footfall in our town centres and turn them into places where people live, we would also relax planning laws to allow for the re-development of long-term unoccupied business properties into good quality housing.

However, we cannot just build housing – we need to build communities. We need to deliver proper town planning and the services that people will use, so that new housing is not a burden on those people who already live in an area. This includes shops, parks, public pathways, roads and schools. We would work with councils to more effectively secure investment in local services from large home developments. 297


The Scottish Greens will continue to fight to ensure green space is protected from unsuitable development and will use the planning system to ensure that all new development results in a positive benefit for wildlife and the natural environment. Changes to local taxation will also encourage redevelopment of brownfield land as a priority ahead of greenfield land.

Take forward a review to strengthen Scotland’s environmental governance measures, including the establishment of an environmental court.

Review the role of SEPA, NatureScot, Marine Scotland and Environmental Standards Scotland to ensure they are empowered and fully aligned behind tackling the climate and nature emergencies.

Bring forward a Land Reform Act to tackle monopolies, promote fairer management of land and regulate the sale of land.

Commission a review of taxation and subsidies relating to land ownership.

Regulate the sale of land of national or community significance

Require significant landholdings to produce a transparent land management plan and be subject to a public interest test.

Introduce restrictions on overseas ownership of land.

Give Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement a statutory footing, requiring large landowners – private, public and third sector – to act responsibly.

Reform the national register of vacant and derelict land to increase its usefulness.

Ensure land that has been derelict for a long time is a top priority for development.

Increase funding to local authorities to tackle vacant and derelict land.

Ensure public bodies that own vacant or derelict land have plans to bring sites back into use, and put plans in place to prevent sites from falling into disuse.

Introduce Compulsory Sale Orders so local authorities can bring chronically disused sites back into public use.


Scottish Labour would reinstate the ability of public authorities to acquire land at existing use value for social homes. As a result the public sector would capture the uplift in the value of land that results when planning permission is granted, unlocking significant funds for infrastructure and development.

Land prices lie at the centre of the housing crisis. We believe the law should be reformed to allow for the acquisition of land for social housing at existing use value and use development gain to finance essential infrastructure.

Scottish Labour will also introduce carbon impact assessments into all policy processes. Planning of new developments and regeneration of existing areas should be around green infrastructure linking communities and habitats, allowing easy access for walking and cycling and incorporating a variety of landscapes including trees, pedestrian and cycle pathways, play areas, food growing spaces as well as flood mitigation measures.

The price of land lies at the centre of the housing crisis. We believe the law should be reformed to allow for the acquisition of land for social housing at existing use value and use development gain to finance essential infrastructure. We will remove the duty on public bodies to maximise the receipts from land sales to enable the transfer of land for social housing.

Scottish Labour’s vision for publicly-led development would put communities first and prioritise public health, green space and energy efficiency.

Scottish Labour will ensure more land is in the hands of local communities to help create a fairer, sustainable Scotland. We will legislate to ensure that no one individual can acquire large swathes of Scotland’s land and prevent land ownership via offshore tax-havens.

Lib Dems

Make sure there are community engagement plans in place at the planning stage of major infrastructure projects to allow local people to have an effective voice.

We will consult on the establishment of a specialist Environmental Court, to provide

a speedier, more accessible and cost effective environmental justice system.

We will conduct an urgent review of the reasons properties are left vacant, to take

the steps needed to bring more of them into use, with the specific aim of increasing the housing supply.

To help deliver more suitable land for housing we will take forward the recommendation of the Scottish Land Commission to force the sale of derelict sites that blight communities.

We will conduct an assessment of publicly owned brownfield land and consult on a mechanism for selling such land on a plot-by-plot basis direct to communities for self-building.

We will make it much simpler, through permitted development rights, for urban derelict land and rural farm buildings to be used for zero emission homes.

We have proposed a switch to a land value system, used elsewhere in the world, which does not

penalise homeowners for improving their properties. The Independent Review of Local Taxation said there is merit in that system and encouraged further work. The Scottish Land Commission has carried out some further studies and these should be part of the cross-party work to scrap the

council tax.


We will bring forward a new Land Reform Bill. It will ensure that the public interest is considered on any particularly large scale land ownership and introduce a pre-emption in favour of community buy-out where title to land is transferred.

A £50 million Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme will ensure land is utilised for maximum environmental and community benefit with a particular focus in deprived areas where the blight of vacant and derelict land is most prevalent.

We will strengthen compulsory purchase powers for local authorities and introduce new compulsory sale orders.

We will also bring forward new legislation to introduce Land Value Capture to make sure changes of land use lead to a proportion of the increase in the price being reinvested in the local community, including social infrastructure and affordable housing.

In planning applications which may have regional or national importance, we shall require the relevant Economic Development body, whether Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, or South of Scotland Enterprise, to provide their assessment of the potential economic benefits of the development concerned.

Links to the manifestos

Conservative Manifesto

Green manifesto

Labour Manifesto

Lib Dem Manifesto

SNP Manifesto

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1 Response

  1. Robin Irwin

    Nice article Clare. Any mention of the food environment like adoption of law in England? I believe NF4 may consider this in the future, which I see referenced. At the moment large multi-nationals can strategically target schools, taking advantage of poor protection in law, councils unprepared to challenge due to the threat of legal action and a community with little to work with in terms of material objection.

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