Skip to main content

Southern sustainability

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 South 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 Southern action area includes (in broad terms):

  • The Scottish Borders 
  • Dumfries and Galloway

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.

We also outline some of the challenges facing the area, and provide some additional background to Draft NPF4's proposed approach.

Carbon emissions

Net emissions in the area are moderate, but would be significantly higher without the impact of land use

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 81 per cent of the UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

The map shows net Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per square kilometre for each Local Authority area. It shows that net CO2 emissions from the south of Scotland are low, especially when compared to the central belt.

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

Looking in more detail, we can see that the emissions generated by transport, household, and industry are being partly offset by land use

Carbon dioxide emissions by sector in the South of Scotland
Sector (Kt CO2) Dumfries and Galloway Scottish Borders
Domestic  344 230
Industry  96 47
Commercial  23 13
Public Sector  266 217
Transport  546 243
Land use, Land use change, and Forestry -339 -49




Large areas of forestry and peatland act as a carbon sink

The area has significant areas of forestry and peatland which act as a carbon sink and form the basis of future investment opportunities.

For example, the map shows areas of peatland in Scotland, including large areas across the south.

Peatland stores vast amounts of carbon - twice as much as all the world’s forests.

Peatland restoration not only presents a key opportunity to offset carbon emissions, it also provides a strong basis for future generations of rural employment.

Areas of Peatland


Map showing areas of peatland in Scotland, including large areas across the south


Wind farms

Wind farms offer further opportunity for reducing emissions

Communities here also contribute significantly to national efforts to reduce emissions through the area’s substantial output from onshore wind farms.

The map shows proposals for wind farm locations in Scotland, using data from 2019.

It shows a large number of sites across the south of Scotland – both those that have already been installed, and those still in the planning stages.

Wind Farm Proposals Scotland (2019)





Map showing locations of proposed wind farm locations in Scotland


Population change

Population decline is expected in the west, while the population itself is growing older

Despite having high levels of wellbeing and high quality of life, the area has experienced population decline in recent years this is projected to continue towards the west of the area.

Predicted population change 2018-2043

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 population change to 2043 by Local Authority
Local Authority Projected change Change as a percentage
Dumfries and Galloway -12,504 -8%
Scottish Borders 868 1%

By 2043 every Local Authority in Scotland will be home to more people aged 65+, compared to today, and the south of Scotland is no exception.

For example the Scottish Borders Council is expected to have 30% more people aged 65+ by the year 2043.

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

Projected growth in population

> 40% - 59%

> 30% - 40%

> 20% - 30%

11% - 20%

Map showing projected percentage population change to 2043, aged 65 plus, by Local Authority

Projected growth in population aged 65+ to 2043 by Local Authority
Local Authority Projected Change Projected change as a percentage
Dumfries and Galloway 8,089 21%
Scottish Borders 8,432 30%

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.



The area is rural in nature

Much of the area is rural in character with small settlements and many rural homes, farms and smallholdings.

The map shows the locations of settlements of more than 500 people. There is a clear difference between the south of Scotland and the central belt, with the south having a significantly more sparse population.

Settlements of over 500 people

Settlement boundaries

Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders

Map showing the location of setllements over 500, with the south having a more sparse population

The economy

Wages are low across the area

The area’s economy is dependent on low wage and public sector employment and this presents challenges for building a wellbeing economy.

The map shows the average hourly wage earned by residents of each Local Authority.  

As the map shows, both Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders have an average hourly wage that is significantly lower than the national average.

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


Average hourly wage by Local Authority
Local Authority Median Hourly Wage
Dumfries and Galloway £11.55
Scottish Borders £12.77
Scottish average £14.21

What does the draft NPF4 propose for the area? 

The Draft NPF4 proposes that priorities for the Southern action area include creating liveable and connected places which benefit from further investment and innovation.

Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council have been exploring an integrated vision for their future development that forms the basis of their early indicative regional spatial strategy. This has the potential to link with the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal which involves English local authorities close to the border.

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