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Scottish Government: Scottish Planning Framework

The Scottish Government recently launched their draft Scottish Planning Policy report for consultation. Details of the report and consultation can be found on their website

 Submitted 23rd July 2013

  1. The Geological Society is the UK’s learned and professional body for geoscience, with more than 10,500 Fellows (members) worldwide.  The Fellowship encompasses those working in industry, academia and government with a broad range of perspectives on policy-relevant science, and the Society is a leading communicator of this science to government bodies and other non-specialist audiences.
  2. We have not attempted to answer all the questions raised in the consultation, many of which are outside our area of competence.  We have focused on geoscientific considerations which the National Planning Framework Team may find helpful in its deliberations.  We would be pleased to discuss further any of the points raised below. 
  3. The Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Report recognises the importance of the geosphere and of a number of aspects of geoscience for effective planning and management of environmental impacts.  We welcome the consideration of the abiotic (including geosphere) elements of ecosystems alongside the biotic elements, and the inclusion of geodiversity in the assessment matrices – factors which have not always been recognised in planning and environmental policy making in the nations of the UK in recent years.  We are also pleased to see consideration of wastes from primary resource production, such as those from the coal industry, as potential sources of further resources in their own right.  Consideration of whole resource cycles, and of the interrelation between resource cycles, has the potential to deliver both economic and environmental benefits.  Recognition of the importance of geology and geomorphology in the designation of Marine Protected Areas is also a positive step towards a more holistic approach to ecosystems and ecosystem services.
  4. While it is welcome that the new planning framework recognises relevant geoscientific considerations, delivery of positive economic and environmental outcomes will depend on their effective implementation.  This can only be achieved if appropriate organisational infrastructure is in place, and geoscientific capability is maintained in implementing bodies (such as Scottish Natural Heritage) through the employment and development of suitably trained and skilled personnel.
  5. We are concerned about the current backlog of potential SSSI sites awaiting designation by Scottish National Heritage.  Currently 23% of the Geological Conservation Review sites are not notified and have no protection.  The geology of Scotland provides a valuable record of past changes that can be used to understand current and future hazards such as landslides, coastal erosion and environmental change.  It also provides crucial supporting ecosystem services which drive biological and physical processes.  Scotland is the home of many important geoheritage sites, which are of economic significance for the tourism industry.  They also have great cultural and educational value.  Visits to geologically important sites to support education at school, university and professional level are fundamental to development of geoscience skills which will help to drive Scotland’s future prosperity.  Continued delay in ensuring the protection of areas identified as geologically important imperils the objectives set out in the planning policy framework, and risks long-term damage to the geological heritage of Scotland.