Last week saw the Planning (Scotland) Bill complete its Stage 2 consideration in committee.

Next step

The next step is for the whole Parliament to debate the Bill and then decide whether to pass it in its final form or not.

While the timing of this consideration is dependent on the terms of a business motion from the Parliamentary Bureau, early in 2019 would seem to be the most likely scenario.

The changes that were made to the Bill at stage 2are reflected in the "as amended" version that will be debated by the full Parliament.

Stage 3

Once stage 3 gets underway new amendments to the Bill can be laid down, but the Presiding Officer has a responsibility to select the ones that will be debated by MSPs.

"Wrecking amendments" that go against the general principles of a bill are inadmissible. Similarly, if a proposed amendment received little support at stage 2 it should not be selected for debate by the full Parliament at stage 3.

Third Party Right of Appeal

Notably in relation to the Planning Bill, members of the committee narrowly rejected an amendment to provide third parties with rights of appeal in relation to planning decisions.

However, there is no guarantee that an amendment along these lines will not be considered once again at stage 3. The proposed amendment was rejected by 3 votes to 2 in committee, so the Presiding Officer may not accept this narrow defeat as a sign of the policy's limited support.

Equally, if the wording of the amendment is revised to take account of criticism made at the committee stage, or if there appears to be a change in Scottish Government's attitude, it may still be selected for debate at this stage.

The relevant guidance in relation to selecting amendments at stage 3 advises the Presiding Officer: "The selected list should continue to reflect the major concerns of all political parties and of individual MSPs who have lodged amendments."

If providing a third party right of appeal in the planning process continues to be a touchstone issue for politicians, there is every chance that an amendment along these lines could be considered by MSPs when the Bill reaches the main chamber.

The end of Stage 3

Once the stage 3 amendments have all been dealt with, MSPs will decide on an up-or-down basis whether to pass the final version of the Bill.


Neil Collar