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What is the National Planning Framework?

The National Planning Framework (NPF) is a long term plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth.


We have begun the process of reviewing the NPF. The current National Planning Framework (NPF3) was published in 2014 and will remain in place until a fourth NPF (NPF4) is adopted by Scottish Ministers.

NPF4 will incorporate Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) which contains detailed national policy on a number of planning topics. For the first time, spatial and thematic planning policies will be addressed in one place.

NPF4 will have the status of the development plan for planning purposes. This is a change to the current position and will mean that its policies will have a stronger role in informing day to day decision making.

We expect NPF4 to look very different from NPF3, with a longer time horizon to 2050, fuller regional coverage and improved alignment with wider programmes and strategies, including on infrastructure and economic investment. NPF4 will also take into account regional spatial strategies which will be prepared by local authorities.

We will continue to support stakeholders to help us shape NPF4 through our Programme for Engagement - PDF (291kB).


NPF4 will also address the following high level outcomes:

  • Meeting the housing needs of people living in Scotland including, in particular, the housing needs for older people and disabled people
  • Improving the health and well-being of people living in Scotland
  • Increasing the population of rural areas of Scotland
  • Improving equality and eliminating discrimination
  • Meeting any targets relating to the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Securing positive effects for biodiversity

Process for developing NPF4

Through the period January to April 2020 we sought early views on NPF4 both in terms of the spatial strategy for Scotland and on the more detailed policies on specific topics, currently in the SPP.  We had anticipated laying a draft NPF4 in the Scottish Parliament in September 2020, but given the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency and many people's and organisations' capacity at the moment, delay has been inevitable and we now anticipating laying a draft in Parliament in Autumn 2021. 

To provide an overview of our thinking, in November 2020 we published a Position Statement setting out our thoughts on what the likely policy changes might be in the draft NPF4. Thank you to all who contributed to the consultation. We will publish an analysis of the consultation responses in due course. 

In Autumn 2021, we will lay a draft NPF4 in the Scottish Parliament.  At the same time we will carry out extensive public consultation. We anticipate producing a final version of NPF4 for approval and adoption around spring 2022.

This website provides information on the development of NPF4.

National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) remain as current policy until final approval of NPF4.

Last Updated: 23 Mar 2021