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North east transition

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 the North east of 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 North east action area includes (in broad terms):

  • Aberdeen City
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Moray

Parts of the east coast, for example on the Firths of Tay and Forth, could also be considered part of this area.

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

CO2 emissions are relatively high in Aberdeen City, and low in the rest of the area 

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

The map shows net Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per square kilometre for each Local Authority area. It shows that net emissions from Aberdeen City are relatively high when compared to the rest of the North East, and Scotland.

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 illustrating net CO<sub>2</sub> emissions per km<sup>2</sup> across Scotland by Local Authority

Emissions per km2 across 3 Local Authority areas in the North East
Local Authority

Emissions per km (tonnes CO2)

Net CO2 emissions (Kt CO2)

Aberdeen City 5.62 1,155
Moray 0.28 625
Aberdeenshire 0.27 1,707

Emissions generated from this area arise mainly from transport, industrial and commercial activity and domestic properties, with limited offsetting from land use and forestry.


Emissions by sector across 3 Local Authority areas in the North East
Sector (Kt CO2) Aberdeen City Aberdeenshire Moray
Domestic  342 482 166
Industry  224 378 288
Commercial  156 97 110
Public Sector  97 21 51
Transport  328 632 154
Land use, Land use change, and Forestry 8 96 -143


Population change

There is significant variation in expected population growth at the local level, and the population as a whole is growing significantly older

The population of the area as a whole is projected to remain steady in the coming decades, although this does mask significant changes at a more local level.

For example, the past few years have seen growth in commuter settlements around Aberdeen and a relative decline in population within the city itself.

Population change between 2014 and 2019

Large growth (more than 15%)

Moderate growth (5% to 15%)

Steady (less than 5% change)

Moderate decline (5% to 15%)

Large decline (more than 15%)

map showing population change in Aberdeen CIty and surrounds between 2014 and 2019

We also know that over the coming decades the north east of Scotland is projected to have an increasingly older population.

For example, projections show that the number of people of retirement age (aged 65+) living in Aberdeenshire could grow by around 43% by 2043.

Projected percentage population change, 2018 - 2043: Aged 65+

Projected growth in population

> 40% - 59%

> 30% - 40%

> 20% - 30%

11% - 20%

Map of Scotland showing projected population change to 2043 for age 65 and over by Local Authority

Projected growth in population aged over 65 in the North East
Local Authority Projected growth  Percentage growth
Aberdeen City 9,449 27%
Aberdeenshire 21,329 43%
Moray 8,578 42%

These changes will affect the demand for infrastructure and services like housing, education, transport and healthcare, and communities need to consider how they can prepare for and avoid the potential negative effects.

Quality of life

Quality of life is generally high in the North east, although pockets of deprivation can be found within Aberdeen City

People living in the north east of Scotland generally enjoy a good quality of life.

There are many ways to think about and measure quality of life. One method is to look to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which ranks neighbourhoods in Scotland against various types of deprivation.

The map shows the percentage of neighbourhoods in each Local Authority that are classed as being among the most deprived 20% in Scotland. 

The map and accompanying table show that only 3% of neighbourhoods in Moray and Aberdeenshire fall within the most deprived areas in the country. 

Percentage of neighbourhoods in each Local Authority that are most deprived

Neighbourhoods classed as deprived areas (SIMD Quintile 1)

> 30% - 45%

> 20% - 30%

> 10% - 20%

> 5% - 10%

0% - 5%

Map of neighbourhoods classed as most deprived (SIMD quintile 1) by Local Authority

Neighbourhoods classed as deprived areas (SIMD Quintile 1) in the North East
Local Authority

Percentage of Neighbourhoods

Aberdeen City 10%
Aberdeenshire 3%
Moray 3%

Despite its relative affluence, pockets of deprivation are still found in the region, particularly within Aberdeen City.

This is illustrated by the map, which shows the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) ranking for neighbourhoods across the city of Aberdeen. 

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation - Aberdeen City

SIMD Quintile

1 (most deprived)




5 (least deprived)

Map of Aberdeen City showing areas of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD Quintile)

Urban and rural

The area has a diverse mixture of rural and urban areas

With urban areas including the city of Aberdeen and a network of towns including Elgin, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Ellon, Inverurie and Stonehaven.

The significant rural areas are diverse, including more accessible countryside around the city.

Settlements of more than 500 people

Settlement boundaries

Map of the North East showing settlements of more than 500 people

Car ownership

Car ownership in Aberdeenshire is among the highest in the country

The difference between urban and rural parts of the north east is illustrated by the high level of car ownership in Aberdeenshire when compared to the more urban Aberdeen city.

In fact, as the map shows, car ownership in Aberdeenshire is among the highest in the country.

Car ownership, by Local Authority

Cars per 1000 people

680 or more

> 580 - 680

> 500 - 580

500 or less

Map showing car ownership per 1000 people by Local Authority

Car ownership in the North East
Local Authority

Cars per 1,000 people

Number of cars

Aberdeenshire 697 145,900
Moray 610 48,000
Aberdeen City 497 95,100
Scotland 563 2,524,500


House prices are high compared to wages, making it difficult to afford a home 

There is high demand in the housing market and affordability and choice of homes remains a challenge, particularly within Aberdeen's commuting catchment.

The map shows the cost of the average (median) home in each Local Authority, divided by the average (median) hourly wage in that area.

This gives a rough indication of the affordability of housing and shows that in the north east, and particularly in Aberdeenshire, average house prices are high compared to wages.

Affordability of housing

Median house price divided by median gross hourly pay

> 12,700 - 16,700

> 11,500 - 12,700

> 10,000 - 11,500

> 7,500 - 10,000

7,000 - 7,500

Map showing affordability of housing by Local Authority

The table lists both the median price of houses sold in Q1 2021, and the number of houses sold per 1000 people.
In Aberdeenshire, the median price of £217,449 is significantly over the national average of £191,583.
In Moray on the other hand, houses are not as expensive, but with relatively few houses available to buy.
Affordability of housing in the North East
Local Authority

Median House Price
(Q1 2021)

House sales per 1000 people
(Q1 2021)

Aberdeen City £190,250 4.7
Aberdeenshire £217,449 4.8
Moray £185,492 4.1
Scotland £191,583 4.8

What does the draft NPF4 propose for the area? 

The Draft NPF4 proposes that priorities for the North East action area include actively planning the transition from oil and gas to a net zero future for the north east of Scotland.

It builds on emerging regional visions produced for the Aberdeen city region as well as aligning with the ambitions in the neighbouring Moray, Tayside, Highland and Cairngorm National Park areas.

The Draft NPF4 aims to bring these visions together to set out a coherent plan that addresses the collective strengths and challenges for the area and 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