National Planning Framework

The following information explains how we are inputting into the preparation of the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), currently being prepared by the Scottish Government as part of their planning reform agenda.

We see this work as a vital opportunity to raise Highland’s profile on the national stage and to showcase how our communities and our area’s unique assets and resources can make a real contribution to national outcomes. NPF4 will also be a key part in supporting economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and addressing the climate and ecological emergency.

The Scottish Government published in November 2021 a full Draft NPF4 for consultation running until 31 March 2022. The Council has considered Draft NPF4 and following an initial report considered by the Economy and Infrastructure Committee on 2 February 2022, the Council’s response has been finalised and submitted to The Scottish Government.

Draft NPF4 followed the Scottish Government’s publication of an NPF4 Position Statement in November 2020. We provided Council officer feedback on that in February 2021. We also refined our Indicative Regional Spatial Strategy (IRSS) for Highland including our candidate National Development suggestions, and resubmitted it in April 2021 – it is available to view in the section immediately below. Both matters were to inform NPF4 and were approved by the Economy and Infrastructure Committee on 5 May 2021.

Highland Indicative Regional Spatial Strategy (IRSS)

The Scottish Government invited Planning Authorities to prepare Indicative Regional Spatial Strategies (IRSS) to help inform the preparation of NPF4. Regionally, the Council has taken the lead role in preparing a Highland IRSS, with contributions from partners. The Highland IRSS sets out the Council’s ideas for how the region can grow and prosper in the period to 2050, whilst also supporting the delivery of national priorities and outcomes.

Following the preparation and submission of an initial version of the Highland IRSS in Autumn 2020, Scottish Government provided opportunity for Indicative Regional Spatial Strategies to be further refined during early 2021. We submitted a refined Highland IRSS in April 2021, incorporating a further refined version of the Council’s candidate National Developments.

View the Highland Indicative Regional Spatial Strategy Storymap

Read the Highland Indicative Regional Spatial Strategy


The National Planning Framework (NPF) is a long-term plan for Scotland, that sets out where national developments and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth. Scottish Government has 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. The Scottish Government is also reviewing Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) which contains detailed national policy on a number of planning topics; the current SPP was again published in 2014. The revised SPP will be incorporated into NPF4. For the first time, spatial and thematic national planning policies will be addressed in one place and NPF4 will have the status of the development plan for planning purposes.

Scottish Government expects 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.

As part of early engagement for the preparation of NPF4, Scottish Government undertook a Call for Ideas. The Highland Council made the following submissions:

The Economy and Infrastructure Committee approved these submissions on 1 July 2020.

Following approval by the Economy and Infrastructure Committee on 2 September 2020, The Highland Council made the following submissions in Autumn 2020:

As part of the Council’s early work on preparing the Highland IRSS and to help outline the importance of and the key issues affecting Highland, in summer 2020 we prepared a film with the help of the Scottish Government and Kevin Murray Associates. This film explained the engagement process we were following, ongoing work at that time and what we were seeking to achieve. Since the publication of this film both the Highland IRSS Vision Statement and Spatial Strategy have been refined further.