The Smith Commission

Director of RTPI Scotland, Craig McLaren, outlines the Institute’s response to the Smith Commission

On 19 September, the Prime Minister announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin had agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament.  The Smith Commission states that following the Scottish Referendum vote on 18 September 2014, and the decision for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, there is a willingness shared by all five of Scotland’s main political parties to strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament within the UK.

The Institute has been advocating an approach of subsidiarity in its policy work across the UK and Ireland and, for example, is supporting the allocation of powers to county and city regions in England; the transfer of powers on renewables from the UK Parliament to the Welsh Government and the move of powers from DOENI to local authorities in Northern Ireland.

While planning is a devolved matter in Scotland, there are a number of issues, for example renewables, welfare, taxation and infrastructure, which have an impact on planning that are not fully devolved. Given this we have set out 10 principles that we have asked the Commission to adopt in taking forward its work that would help planners working to help deliver better places. These should be taken forward within the context of the outcomes based approach that is in place in Scotland.

The proposed principles are:

Subsidiarity – that any new powers are vested in, and exercised, at a level that will be most effective in supporting all parties to deliver better places in Scotland. These levels include UK, Scotland, the city regions, local authorities and communities. Examples of this include welfare (especially the bedroom tax) and capital gains tax which have an impact on planning and the housing market

Coordination – that any new powers support and complement the ability to coordinate approaches to planning across the borders within the UK, and consider and support joined up consenting regimes that affect, for example, planning for renewables, marine areas and infrastructure

Appropriateness – that any new powers allow Scottish Government and its partners to develop specific approaches to tackle Scotland’s specific needs where this appropriate

Resourced – that any new powers are properly resourced to ensure their effective implementation

Aligned – that any new powers complement and don’t contradict or ‘get in the way’ of other powers that are devolved

Engagement – that any new powers are consulted upon and that Scottish Government works with its delivery partners in assessing how best to make them work

Spatial – that any new powers are examined in terms of how they will impact on the different geographies of Scotland so as to promote better integrated approaches. Too often subsequent policy approaches are programme or silo-based

Monitored – that the implementation of any new powers are monitored to check on their effectiveness

Sustainable – any new powers should be used to support the overarching principles of sustainable development

Long term – any new powers should be drafted to ensure that they support the Scotland’s longer term plans, ambitions and aspirations. They cannot be focussed on merely providing short term fixes.



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