National Planning Policy in Scotland

The Scottish Government is responsible for the development and implementation of the legislative framework of the planning system in Scotland, setting out the strategy for Scotland's future development and policies on key planning issues and promoting good practice across the planning system. In particular it: •maintains and develops primary and secondary planning legislation •prepares and monitors the delivery of the National Planning Framework (NPF) •provides clear and proportionate planning policy and advice (SPP).

National Planning Policy Framework 3: A Plan for Scotland: Ambition, Opportunity, Place (NPF3)

The National Planning Framework (NPF) is a long term plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth. Scotland's third National Planning Policy Framework was published by the Scottish Government in June 2014 and is the spatial expression of the Scottish Government's Economic Strategy.

NPF3 brings together plans and strategies in economic development, regeneration, energy, environment, climate change, transport and digital infrastructure to provide a coherent vision of how Scotland should evolve over the next 20 to 30 years and will help to inform future policies and prioritise investment decisions.

NPF3 sets the context for development planning in Scotland and there is an explicit requirement for planning authorities to take it into account when preparing strategic and local development plans and in subsequent development management decisions.

The 4 Key Planning outcomes for Scotland are;

  • A successful sustainable place - supporting economic growth, regeneration and the creation of well-designed places;
  • A low carbon place - reducing our carbon emissions and adapting to climate change;
  • A natural resilient place - helping to protect and enhance our natural cultural assets and facilitating their sustainable use; and
  • A connected place - supporting better transport and digital connectivity

NPF3 identifies 14 'national developments', which are considered by the Scottish Government to be essential to Scotland's strategic spatial development. Those impacting on West Lothian include the Central Scotland Green Network and High Speed Rail.

National Planning Policy Framework 4

Now that the Planning (Scotland) Act has been enacted a key endeavour of the Scottish Government is the preparation of the next National Planning Framework (NPF4).

The Scottish Government has begun the process of reviewing NPF3 and will aim to lay a draft NPF4 in the Scottish Parliament in September 2020. It is anticipated that the final version will be laid in 2021. The new Act also intends for NPF4 to incorporate Scottish Planning Policy which contains detailed national policy on a number of planning topics and for the first time spatial and thematic planning policies will be addressed in one place. The current National Planning Framework (NPF3) will however remain in force until NPF4  is adopted by Scottish Ministers.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)

Scottish Planning Policy is a non-statutory statement of Scottish Government Policy on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across Scotland.

It sets out national planning policies which reflect Scottish Ministers priorities for how the planning system should work and for the development and use of land. The overarching aim of the planning system under SPP is to achieve sustainable economic growth.

The SPP promotes consistency in the application of policy across Scotland whilst allowing sufficient flexibility to reflect local circumstances. SPP was published in June 2014.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) is a 'material consideration' to be taken account of in the preparation of development plans and when planning authorities determine planning applications. It sits alongside the National Planning Framework for Scotland (NPF3) in the policy hierarchy.


For Information: The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019

If you have any questions relating to the Development Plan process or just want to provide feedback and comments on our service, please email the Development Planning & Environment team at . You can also write to us at Development Planning & Environment, West Lothian Civic Centre, Howden South Road, Livingston, West Lothian EH54 6FF or phone 01506 280000.

Alternatively, you can contact a member of the SESplan team directly by sending an email to

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