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Ariane Burgess: Have your say in the future of your community


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Holyrood Notebook by Ariane Burgess

Protecting the Flow Country is just part of our fight against climate change.
Protecting the Flow Country is just part of our fight against climate change.

Inspired by COP26 negotiations taking place in Glasgow, in my previous column I wrote about the opportunities communities already have to take action to drive down climate emissions and restore nature regardless of what was agreed.

Unfortunately, when push came to shove our leaders failed to live up to the urgency of the situation. The final day of negotiations saw them agreeing to continue support for fossil fuels.

The action we urgently needed to be agreed hasn't come to pass.

As the dust settles and delegates return home, all eyes in Caithness and across Scotland should turn to our next big opportunity to shape policy and take local action to tackle the climate emergency.

This month the Minister for Local Finance, Community Wellbeing and Planning, Tom Arthur, published the draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), which lays out proposals to guide how strategic planning decisions will be made between 2022 and 2045. And now both the Scottish Government and the Scottish parliament are asking for your views.

What on earth is NPF4 and what's it got to do with us?

If you want to have a say in safe routes for cycling and wheeling, the regeneration of your community, better and green connectivity and requirements for nature restoration, then now's the time to get involved.

When we hear about planning, it's usually because there's a controversial planning application for development in or close to our community. The NPF4 will provide overarching approaches for planning authorities across Scotland, and this is why we must engage with the NPF4.

This draft plan sets out the Scottish Government's proposals for where they think development and infrastructure are needed over the years ahead.

There are three main parts to the plan: the long-term spatial strategy with five areas for action; 18 proposals for national developments; and part three is a comprehensive review and update of 35 national planning policies.

Caithness towns such as Wick and Thurso are specifically mentioned in the Spatial Strategy section 'North and west coastal innovation' with a focus on renewable energy, better and green transport connectivity, and peatland restoration. It’s also mentioned in the action on northern revitalisation where the proposal to designate the Flow Country as a Unesco site gets a mention.

I’ve barely touched on what’s in this national plan and it’s important that as many of us as possible understand the proposals for this beautiful part of our world.

I’d like to see the NPF4 being discussed in every school. I’d like to see it become the next “book” being read and discussed at book clubs. And I’d like to see all the thoughts and ideas fed back to the Scottish Government or the Scottish parliament through the two consultations.

Some businesses tasked with large infrastructure projects proposed will need to be supported to change their business models to put natural regeneration, restoration and genuine community care and involvement at their heart. Not in a thin greenwash way, but from a genuine desire to do the best for communities and their surrounding environment.

Getting this plan right means we get it right for future generations who will live with the large developments and infrastructure that are implemented between now and 2045.

If you don’t have time to read the whole document, read the bits that matter most to you. You can read it at www.gov.scot/publications/scotland-2045-fourth-national-planning-framework-draft

To participate in the Scottish parliament's consultation, which is an entirely different process, visit https://yourviews.parliament.scot/lgc/npf4

Green MSP Ariane Burgess.
Green MSP Ariane Burgess.
  • Ariane Burgess is a Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

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