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A new digital strategy is set to transform Scotland’s planning system, aiming to create up to 1,600 jobs, save planning authorities up to £20 million and generate £200 million for the Scottish economy over the coming years.

The Transforming Places Together: Digital Strategy for Planning defines a long-term strategic direction for how Scotland’s planning system will digitally transform, embracing the opportunities new digital technologies and data present. It sets out what is intended to be delivered, why this is needed and the benefits this transformation will bring.


Creation and delivery of the Strategy

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a package of work to transform Scotland’s planning system was already underway by the Scottish Government. It combined far-reaching policy reform and legislative change, a renewed focus on place-based planning and the digitalisation of planning.


Following the passing of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, official work commenced and the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government was given a central role in one of three pathfinder projects - Digital Planning Landscape Review’. This sought to clarify councils’ current planning business and associated technical platforms. The pathfinder was completed in October 2020 and a report on the findings was submitted to the Scottish Government for incorporation into the Strategy.

Following the review of the pathfinders, the Scottish Government published the document Transforming Places Together: Scotland’s Digital Strategy for Planning which fully details the long-term strategic direction for how Scotland’s planning system will digitally transform.

The document evidences how confidence can be taken that the proposed changes will produce real improvements by targeting the things that matter most to those involved in planning. By placing data and technology at the heart of this plan, there is the opportunity for long-lasting change in which collaboration across the planning sector can reshape and implement new systems and creative ways of working.

As we begin to recover from the pandemic, an efficient and resilient planning system will be crucial to enabling communities to regenerate from an economic standpoint.

“It is time to create the environment that empowers planners to do what they do best – deliver great places which make Scotland a great country.” - Scottish Government Cabinet Minister for Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart MSP

The key missions

At the core of the new Strategy are 5 key missions which detail what the Scottish Government aims to achieve by 2025:



  • Develop a shared data resource for planning and place data. Built upon a cloud hosted platform this will allow open access for planners as well as the public, private and academic sectors;
  • Build a foundation of data that is trusted and can be exchanged and used across geographic boundaries;
  • Define and implement a data ecosystem approach with defined standards, governance and operating model which provides a framework for data to be managed as an asset.


User Experience

  • ‘Smart Planning Application Service’ using data to simplify the planning application experience and remove time-consuming tasks in assessing applications;
  • ‘Find & Explore’ service creating user autonomy over their planning data e.g. tracking individual applications, searching for nearby low-carbon applications;
  • ‘Engage & Get Involved’ service introducing new tools and channels which acts as an online community and encourages feedback by allowing people to comment on any live application;
  • ‘Track & Forecast’ service will provide further insight by enabling real-time monitoring of the planning system, providing data to show policy impact and through showcasing evidence for investment decisions;
  • A new ‘Planning Scotland Gateway’ portal bringing the services, tools and data together as a single point of entry to information and services. It will surface new digital services, data and tools to users including citizens, investors, developers, communities, architects and public sector bodies.



  • Establish a digital skills and capability programme including digital leadership, digital skills for public sector planners and working with academia to ensure graduates have key digital skills on joining the profession;
  • Embed a change management framework that supports public sector bodies through this transformative change by using an early adopter model and providing practical tools such as digital maturity assessments;
  • Establish a Future Planners programme working with schools and young people using digital to promote planning as a profession.



  • Adopt digital engagement tools that will help democratise planning and get more people involved at national, regional, local authority and community levels;
  • Host a digital platform for development plans to view data ranging from the National Planning Framework level right through to the community level Local Place Plans;
  • Launch the new ‘Place Builder’ tool which is being developing through the CivTech initiative to help locals get involved in re-imagining their communities;
  • Develop a digital places toolkit providing access to mapping and visualisation at a local level;
  • Work with partners to enable digital participation and inclusion to ensure no one is left behind in a digitally transformed planning system.



  • Finalise a proposal for creation of the PlaceTech Innovation Lab, as a hub for organisations and private sector companies to use data and tools for digital placemaking;
  • Establish a partnership with the Scottish higher education sector by embedding planning and innovation challenges within university courses;
  • Begin 3D visualisation and digital twin technology in planning;
  • Continue to offer innovation challenges through existing business incubators and accelerators;
  • Promote participation in a digital leadership course to develop a culture and mindset of digital innovation in planning.


To deliver this transformation, the Scottish Government will start by identifying delivery partners to aid the delivery of the early priorities.

The scope of the programme will be limited to planning however it will ensure an aligned approach across relevant programmes and policy areas including Building Standards.

The Scottish Government will lead the programme by:

  • Adopting an agile approach to delivery, aligned with the Scottish Approach to Service Design, supported by robust governance arrangements;
  • Implementing a flexible early adopter model to work with partners;
  • Maintaining an open and transparent view of governance arrangements;
  • Ensuring that the programme is properly financed and properly resourced with a high calibre of experienced personnel.

What to expect in the coming months

Spring 2021 expects the publication of a draft 18-24 month roadmap alongside a long-term 5 year delivery plan, ahead of an April 2021 official launch. This presents potential opportunities for Scottish Local Authorities to get involved, have their say and play their part in the delivery of the strategy.


The Digital Office will be publishing regular updates on the progress of the Strategy however you can keep up to date by following the channels below: