The National Planning Framework 4 will come to the Scottish Parliament in the autumn and its ten-year span will cover the most vital period in our fight against the climate emergency. Infrastructure and planning decisions made in the next few years will be operational for decades to come, covering the period up to and beyond our 2030 and 2045 emissions reductions targets. Therefore, the final NPF4 must be nothing less than a framework for ending the creation of infrastructure that contradicts our climate ambitions, and instead drives the adoption of low-carbon alternatives.

To deliver on Scotland’s climate ambitions NPF4 must commit to blocking new fossil fuel infrastructure, ruling out the development of further incineration capacity and ending the expansion of Scotland’s trunk road network. Instead, NPF4 should facilitate and encourage the adoption of zero-carbon alternatives, threading decarbonised heat solutions into housing planning and stopping the creation of out-of-town developments with no sustainable transport options.

There are a number of very welcome high-level commitments in the Position Statement.  We welcome the four key outcomes, especially Net-Zero Emissions and the Wellbeing Economy.  Under the Net-Zero Emissions outcome we welcome the commitments to the types and location of future development contributing to reducing emissions, reducing the need to travel and decarbonising heat.  We also welcome the recognition that an “urgent and radical shift in our spatial plan and policies is required.”

This kind of radical shift is essential but we appear to have a long way to go.  As an example of the kind of contradiction the Framework will need to address, Scotland has a new target to reduce car traffic levels to 20% below 2019 by 2030 from the Climate Change Plan update, yet at the same time in the recent Infrastructure Investment Plan government has reaffirmed the commitment to dualling the A96, likely to be completed around 2030, doubling the capacity on that route and encouraging new traffic.