Regional Spatial Strategies are introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act, which also abolishes Strategic Development Plans.

As the RSS provisions were added late in the parliamentary process, unsurprisingly the provisions are minimal - only 3 pages - with further detail to come, through the power of the Scottish Ministers:

to issue guidance in relation to the preparation, adoption, review and content of regional spatial strategies

Content and scope

RSSs are to be prepared by the planning authority, or authorities acting jointly.

The new statutory planning purpose applies to preparation of RSSs:

to manage the development and use of land in the long term public interest

That includes anything which contributes to sustainable development, or achieves the national outcomes within the meaning of Part 1 of the Community Empowerment Act.

An RSS is to identify :

  • the need for strategic development
  • the outcomes to which strategic development will contribute
  • priorities for the delivery of strategic development
  • proposed locations for strategic development

"strategic development" means development that is likely to have a significant impact on future development within the area of more than one planning authority.

There are no requirements in the Act for preparation of an RSS to take account of other plans.


The RSS will have less status than the SDP, as it is not part of the "development plan". There is also no requirement for the local development plan to be consistent with the RSS.

The preparation of the NPF and LDPs, but not Local Place Plans, is to "have regard to" an adopted RSS.


A planning authority must adopt an RSS as soon as reasonably practicable after the section comes into force.

Independent scrutiny

There are no provisions in the Act for independent scrutiny of the RSS.


Within the city regions, RSSs will replace the SDPs, which are being abolished; in the rest of Scotland, the RSS arrangements create a new strategic development planning responsibility for planning authorities.

This new responsibility is flexible, and less onerous than the SDPs, given the lack (so far) of statutory procedures for preparation of RSSs. Any future guidance from the Scottish Ministers will therefore be key in the development of the first RSSs.


Neil Collar