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Central urban transformation

This page is part of a series of supporting content to the Draft National Planning Framework 4 (Draft NPF4).

On this page we take a closer look at Central Scotland and present some of the key evidence, maps and data that were useful in developing the Draft NPF4's Spatial Strategy. 

What does the area look like and what challenges does it face?

Within the Draft NPF4, the Central action area includes (in broad terms):

  • Glasgow city region
  • Edinburgh city region
  • The Ayrshire Authorities
  • Forth Valley
  • Tayside
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park 

We have set out below a selection of data insights related to this area, using maps and other key data.

These snippets of information are intended to give some insight into what makes this area unique, outline some of the challenges facing the area, and provide some additional background to Draft NPF4's proposed approach.

Carbon emissions

Carbon Dioxide emissions are very high in this area, compared to other parts of Scotland

Many of our largest industrial sites and emitters of greenhouse gases are located in the central belt.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for over 80 per cent of the UK greenhouse gas emissions.

The map shows CO2 emissions, per kilometre squared for each Local Authority in Scotland, and it shows that there is a clear concentration of CO2 emissions in the central region.

Net carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre squared

CO2 emissions per km2, in tonnes CO2

> 5 - 13.7

> 2.5 - 5

> 1 - 2.5

0 - 1

Map of C0<sub>2</sub> emissions per km<sup>2</sup> for each Local Authority in Scotland

Emissions per km2: Top 5 Local Authorities
Local Authority

Emissions per km (tonnes CO2)

Net CO2 emissions (Kt CO2)

Glasgow City 13.69 2,414
Dundee City 9.39 584
City of Edinburgh 7.71 2,106
Falkirk 7.17 2,258
Aberdeen City 5.62 1,155

Key sources of emissions

Key sources of emissions include industrial and manufacturing facilities, waste management sites, and emissions from transport and domestic properties.

Emissions from transport and domestic properties are also high, reflecting the density of the area and high levels of movement within and between city regions.


Population change

Scotland's population is growing faster in this area than any other

The population of the central belt is projected to grow faster than any other part of Scotland, and this growth is expected to be fastest in the east of the region, with growth centered on Edinburgh and surrounds.

Glasgow continues to grow, but many other Local Authorities in the west are expected to see their populations shrink. 

For example, both North Ayrshire and Inverclyde are expected to see their populations decline by over 12,000 people by the year 2043.  


Predicted population change

Large growth (More than 10,000)

Moderate growth (between 1,000 and 9,999)

Steady population (change of less than 1000)

Moderate decline (between 1,000 and 9,999)

Large decline (More than 10,000)

Projected growth in population aged over 65: Top 5 Local Authorities in Scotland
Local Authority Projected change  Change as a percentage
City of Edinburgh 68,066 13%
Glasgow City 36,328 6%
Midlothian 28,297 31%
West Lothian 21,180 12%
East Lothian 15,953 15%

Potential impact

These changes will affect the demand for infrastructure and services like housing, education, transport, and healthcare, and we must support these communities to prepare for and avoid the potential negative effects.


House building

House building has been particularly high in the east of the area

The map shows annual house building completions per 1000 people for each Local Authority area.

It shows that there has been a strong market with high levels of house building across the central belt, although this is particularly seen in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, where rates are among the highest in the country.  


House Building Completions by Local Authority

Completions per 1000 people (2019)

> 5.3 - 8.7

> 3.7 - 5.3 

> 2.5 - 3.7 

1.2 - 2.5

Annual housebuilding completions per 1,000 people: top 5 Local Authorities in Scotland
Local Authority Completions per 1,000 people Annual completions
East Lothian 8.6 928
Midlothian 7.2 672
Perth and Kinross 7.0 1,065
West Lothian 6.2 1,143
South Lanarkshire 5.9 1,906

Vacant and derelict land

The majority of vacant and derelict sites in Scotland are located in the central belt

Significant areas of the Central Belt were historically a focus for heavy industry and activities such as coal mining, leaving a legacy of disused sites and areas blighted by dereliction that we have made some progress in restoring and reusing.

The map shows areas of Vacant and Derelict land in the east of Glasgow. They are colour coded by how quickly they could be brought back into use.

The majority of sites in this area are colour coded green, meaning that they have the potential to be brought back into use relatively quickly.

You can view areas of vacant and derelict land across the entire region using the link below the map. 

Vacant and derelict land in Glasgow City, by Development Potential

Development Potential

Developable (short term)

Developable (medium term)

Developable (undetermined)

Uneconomic to develop

Map of vacant and derelict land in Glasgow illustrating development potential

The economy

Cities make a big contribution to Scotland's economy

A large part of Scotland's economic output is concentrated in the central belt.

This can be seen in the map, which shows that Gross Value Added (a measure of the value of all of the goods and services that are produced in an area) is highest in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.


Gross Value Added (GVA) by NUTS region

Gross Value Added (£millions)

> 15,000 - 23,232

> 5,000 - 15,000

> 2,500 - 5,000

573 - 2,500

Gross Value Added: Top five NUTS Regions in Scotland
NUTS Region Gross Value Added (£millions)
Edinburgh, City of 22,232
Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire 19,951
Glasgow City 19,300
Clackmannanshire and Fife 9,433
Perth & Kinross and Stirling 7,086

Inequality and deprivation

Income varies a lot across the central belt, and the majority of Scotland's most deprived neighbourhoods are located here

The map shows the average annual wage in each Local Authority area. It shows that there are clear differences in the average wage across the central belt, and in general wages are higher in the east and lower in the west.

Average hourly wage by Local Authority

Median gross hourly wage (home location)

> £15.90 - £20.20

> £14.10 - £15.90

> £13.10 - £14.10

£11.50 - £13.10

Map showing average hourly wage by Local Authority across Scotland

Average hourly wage: Top 5 Local Authorities in Scotland
Local Authority Average Hourly Wage
East Renfrewshire £20.17
East Dunbartonshire £17.65
City of Edinburgh £15.91
South Lanarkshire £14.99
Stirling £14.82
Scottish average £14.21

We also know that the majority of Scotland's most deprived neighbourhoods are located in this region.

The map locates those communities that are classed as the most deprived by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).

These areas can be found in many parts of the country, but the concentration is highest across the more urban areas of the central belt, for example in both the east end and north of Glasgow.

The 20% most deprived areas within the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation

SIMD Quintile 1 (Most Deprived)





What does the draft NPF4 propose for this area?


The Draft NPF4 proposes that priorities for the Central action area include reinventing our largest cities and the wider central belt to pioneer a new era of low carbon urban living across Scotland.

The Draft NPF4 aims to bring together emerging visions for the Glasgow and Edinburgh city regions with the ambitions of the Ayrshire Authorities, Forth Valley, Tayside and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to set out strategic priorities of national significance.

You can use the link below to find out more by reading the full Draft NPF4.

Draft NPF4 logo

The Draft National Planning Framework 4

Read the draft on

Last Updated: 07 Jun 2023