The National Planning Framework highlights nine projects that the Government believes are vital to sustainable development in Scotland over the next 20 years.
The Planning Act 2006 was introduced to give the National Planning Framework statutory authority and enables projects to be identified as "national developments". Each project that is given this designation has essentially already obtained outline planning approval. However the projects still need to pass the local planning system, allowing the details as to their implementation to be further assessed.
The nine projects
- Facilities and infrastructure to support the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games While 70% of the venues and infrastructure are already in place, an athletes' village, indoor sports arena, velodrome and hockey centre, together with transport links, are among the developments that the Scottish Government hopes to complete by 2014.
- Grid reinforcements to support renewable energy development The plans include new sub-sea cable links for the Outer Hebrides and Shetland Islands and reinforcing sub-sea cables between Orkney and the mainland, as well as strengthening the Scotland-England interconnectors.
- Improvements to Glasgow Airport The Government expects Glasgow Airport's passenger numbers to double by 2030. To facilitate this, they intend to improve transport to the airport, including a rail link from the city centre. The Framework notes the importance of enhancing Scotland's airports particularly as rail is not an option for linking directly with the continent.
- Development of Edinburgh Airport A new rail link, including a station at Gogar, has been proposed, together with expanding the terminal, creating additional plane stands and relocating the Royal Highland Showground.
- Glasgow strategic drainage scheme This project involves upgrading and replacing the drainage infrastructure, including the construction of new water treatment plants and flood reduction measures.
- Enhancing access to Grangemouth freight hub The Scottish Government plans to improve Grangemouth's road and rail links and expand the freight storage and handling facilities. It is hoped these measures will enable Scotland's busiest container port to fulfil its full potential.·Scapa Flow Container Transhipment Facility, the Framework includes both land based and off shore developments in order to provide an international container transhipment facility. It is believed that Scapa Flow's location and deep water will enable it to cope with the increasing size of container ships.
- Rosyth international container facility The Scottish Government is planning to improve road and rail links as well as create a multimodal container terminal at Rosyth in order to strengthen links with the rest of the world and realise Scotland's potential as a land bridge between Ireland and Europe.
- Replacing the Forth crossing The Scottish Government plans to build a new four lane crossing west of the existing bridge, with the hope of it being in operation by 2018. The development has an estimated cost of £4 billion.
Mr Swinney has deliberately restricted himself to just nine projects, in order to allow local councils the greater freedom they have been promised. While other developments have been mentioned in the Framework, Mr Swinney claims that these will be achieved by other means. The other projects include faster rail journeys, dualling the A9 and completing the M74 through Glasgow. These projects are to be achieved through the Government's transport strategy, which is due to be announced this summer.
Response to the Framework
Most opposition parties and business organisations have welcomed the projects, however the Framework has also met with some resistance from the Scottish Green Party which has criticised the lack of focus on renewables projects. Labour has also found fault with the Framework, claiming that the absence of nuclear energy from the plan will risk both jobs and the economy.
There are also concerns about manpower shortages as the construction of the new Forth Bridge, the Commonwealth Games facilities and several other projects all converge at the same time. The shortage of skilled planners has also been identified as an obstacle to Scotland's economic development.
Despite these concerns, John Swinney claims his Framework will "create a more successful country, increase sustainable economic growth and create opportunities for all Scotland to flourish."The Framework will be open for consultation until 15 April 2008, after which it will be considered by Parliament. It is hoped the National Planning Framework will be published in winter 2008.A copy of the consultation can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/01/07093039/0