Realise the principles of a '20-minute community' in flexible ways across Scotland by reducing the need to travel for work, shopping, services and recreation in ways that support localised living.

The Scottish Government is clear that 20 minute communities or neighbourhoods will be an effective way of delivering the Place Principle – creating places with good quality homes that are well-connected, with easy access to services and public transport links. Establishing these ‘communities’ will contribute to our ambitions on net zero by reducing transport journeys and supporting local living. The 20 minute neighbourhood offers an approach to unlocking localism and creating better places. It provides a method of describing how places could be different if a place-based investment approach is adopted. Its focus on locally embedded workplaces and services could also be a significant component of our recovery from COVID-19.

Rethinking how our places are lived in, planned, delivered and adapted will help to futureproof our villages, towns, cities and regions from some of the impacts of climate change. We will work with local government and other key stakeholders to take forward our ambitions for 20 minute neighbourhoods. In 2021, we began sharing lessons from several key demonstrator locations, promoting good practice, facilitating conversations, and offering resources and a route-map for other places to pursue their own climate change goals.

The 2021/22 Programme for Government made commitments to 20 minute neighbourhoods and we are already pursuing this approach to community development. This will be delivered through the next iteration of our NPF4, programmes to improve broadband connectivity across Scotland, and pilot and research projects into local working hubs.

Following analysis of the Assembly’s recommendations, the Scottish Government will take the following action:

  • We have commissioned a programme of work with Scottish Futures Trust to help facilitate a wider roll-out of work hubs across Scotland.

Recommendation 66: Broadband Connectivity

Improve broadband connectivity across Scotland by investing in a fit for purpose infrastructure to provide reliable, high-speed broadband access in all areas.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports this recommendation and will continue to invest in improving broadband connectivity across Scotland.

 

Telecommunications is wholly reserved to the UK Parliament under the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998. However, given the importance of good quality digital connectivity, particularly in rural Scotland, the Scottish Government is utilising its financial powers to invest £600 million in the Reaching 100% (R100) contracts.

The R100 programme is at the forefront of our plans for a green and resilient economic recovery from COVID-19. Through the R100 programme, we will deliver on our commitment to provide everyone (100% of residential and business premises) in Scotland with access to superfast broadband by the end of 2021, through a combination of the R100 contracts, our R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (R100 SBVS) and commercial coverage.

We are in continuing dialogue with colleagues in the UK Government to ensure Scotland receives its fair share of the £5 billion the UK Government plans to invest in delivery of its own Project Gigabit. We are also working with Openreach – our R100 delivery partner – to identify opportunities to accelerate the deployment of infrastructure through the R100 contracts.

By delivering universal superfast broadband across the whole of Scotland, we will increase opportunities for distance learning and working, thereby reducing pressure on transport routes and contributing to the Scottish Government’s net zero ambitions.

The Scottish Government also intends to align with UK Government proposals to mandate gigabit capable connections (up to a per premise cost cap) in new build developments, with regulations intended to come into effect from Spring 2022.


Recommendation 67: Public Spaces for Walking and Cycling

Invest in improving public spaces in neighbourhoods and cities to make them safer and more appealing to walk and cycle in.

Children’s Parliament: Encourage cycling by making more, safer cycle paths and lanes, and making public bikes available in villages, towns and cities.

Children’s Parliament: Make travelling to school in environmentally friendly ways easier and cheaper. This would involve S’Cool buses, cycle/walking busses, and more, safer cycle routes across Scotland.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports the recommendation to make our towns, cities and neighbourhoods safer and more appealing to walk and cycle in.

 

We are committed to encouraging increased levels of active travel and committed in the Programme for Government 2020/21 to investing over £500 million on active travel over five years. We will use this funding to increase the amount of active travel infrastructure in Scotland, including through the Places for Everyone Programme. We are also directing funding to local authorities to create, repair and improve a Scotland-wide active travel network to ensure that every town has access to a high quality and segregated walking and cycling network. In 2021/22, over £50 million of the active travel capital budget has been allocated in grant funding to Sustrans for the Places for Everyone infrastructure fund, which supports a range of active travel projects including the creation of safer routes to schools. As part of the SNP and Scottish Green Party shared policy programme, we are also committed to increasing the proportion of Transport Scotland’s budget spent on active travel initiatives so that by 2024/25 at least £320 million or 10% of the total transport budget will be allocated to active travel.

Reflecting the circumstances of the pandemic, many of the recent projects to improve walking, wheeling and cycling around schools have focussed on making drop-off and picks-up safer for children and their families, making sure that there is sufficient space at the busiest times of day. This has been delivered through the Spaces for People programme which funded local authorities to implement temporary active travel measures in response to COVID-19.

51 schools across Scotland have seen nearby streets closed - either during parts of the day or full-time during term time – to create more space for pupils, parents and teachers. Local authorities have also invested in the creation or expansion of 20 mph zones near schools, and new crossing points to make journeys safer. Feedback from local authorities to Sustrans suggests many of the measures around schools are popular with pupils, parents and teachers and may be made permanent following wider consultation.

The draft NPF4 supports reducing the need to travel unsustainably and promotes active travel choices and facilitating walking and cycling. It does not support development for significant travel generating uses at locations that would increase reliance on the private car. It sets out that development proposals should demonstrate how they will provide for and prioritise transport in line with the sustainable travel and investment hierarchies.

To make cycling more accessible, the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places is an annual programme funded by Transport Scotland, and managed by Paths for All, with a total of £9m in grants awarded to sustainable travel behaviour change projects across Scotland. Last year the programme supported schemes such as the Edinburgh and Glasgow cycle share initiatives.

The Scottish Government is also establishing pilots that will explore the delivery of free bikes for school children who cannot afford one. Six pilot projects were launched on 17 August 2021 with others to follow. The pilots will test various elements of the practical delivery of the policy, including how to identify those children who need a bike; different models of sourcing and distributing the bikes, and; delivery of the wrap-around support required, including bicycle training and maintenance, and equipment such as a helmet, hi-vis clothing, lights and locks.

Pilots are linked to existing community networks across schools, charities, cycling clubs and active travel hubs – all helping to determine what the best models of local delivery could look like. The benefits of giving greater access to bikes for children are clear from the evidence – it supports equality of opportunity in building life skills, confidence, independence and embeds healthy and sustainable travel habits from a young age.

Ensuring that more children can choose active travel including cycling is vital to enable them to make the travel choices in the future that support us meeting our world leading net zero targets.


Recommendation 68: Convert Existing Buildings

Create thriving town centres by focusing on the conversion of existing properties into high quality housing and community spaces rather than building more edge of town developments.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports this and is clear that the planning system can reshape future city and town centres.

 

As set out in previous responses (including to Recommendation 8), the draft NPF4 will have the status of development plan for planning decisions once adopted. Development plans set out the long term vision for where development should and shouldn’t happen and can include policies for the development and use of land. The status of the Framework is important because, along with Local Development Plans, it will form part of the development plan and broadly where planning applications are made for new development they should be approved where consistent with the development plan and refused where they are not.

The draft NPF4 supports: compact growth; reuse of vacant and derelict land and redundant buildings; the creation of a low-carbon network of towns; 20 minute neighbourhoods; a town centre first approach; and town centre living including in reused buildings or upper floors; and development that improves the vitality and viability of city, town and local centres as part of place based strategies. It does not support out-of-town locations for retail development generating significant footfall. As set out in Recommendation 19, a compact growth approach limits urban expansion where brownfield, vacant and derelict land and buildings can be used more efficiently, the draft policy is also clear that development proposals on greenfield sites should not be supported unless the site has been allocated for development or the proposal is explicitly supported by policies in the development plan, and there are no suitable brownfield alternatives. As highlighted in other responses (including Recommendation 19), we welcome comments on the draft at this time and currently anticipate the finalised version will be adopted in 2022. Further information is available from www.transformingplanning.scot.


Recommendation 69: Reform Planning Laws

Reform planning laws to enable governments to require developers to include community infrastructure and local facilities that can be reached by ‘active travel’ in new developments, preventing collections of houses being built with no amenities, and instead building thriving communities.

Children’s Parliament: Create more nature parks and stop green spaces from being built on. In towns and cities, create green, traffic-free areas for children and adults to play.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports the development of neighbourhoods where community infrastructure and local facilities can be easily reached by active travel, and is promoting the creation of networks of 20 minute neighbourhoods, as well as integrating an infrastructure first approach to the planning system.

 

The Scottish Government is carrying out a review of existing mechanisms for securing financial or in-kind contributions to infrastructure or affordable housing, sometimes known as developer contributions. The purpose of the review is to evaluate the effectiveness of existing approaches, such as planning obligations, in securing timely contributions to - and delivery of - the infrastructure and affordable housing that are necessary to create high quality places. This will inform the consideration and development of new approaches, taking account of powers in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 for Scottish Ministers to introduce an infrastructure levy. In broad terms the levy would provide authorities with an additional means of ensuring that a proportion of land value increases are reinvested in community facilities and infrastructure.

Legislative reform under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 already means that once adopted, the NPF4 will have the status of development plan for planning decisions. The importance of this is set out in recommendation 68. As mentioned under Goal 6 and Recommendation 43, the draft NPF4 supports the creation of 20 minute neighbourhoods for which active travel links will be important and where most people can meet their daily needs online or in person within a 20 minute walk, wheel or cycle. This means most people being able to live and work locally, pursuing opportunities, learning and well-being in your own neighbourhood, reducing the need to travel further afield to meet daily needs. The draft Infrastructure First policy seeks to put infrastructure considerations at the heart of place making. It supports making better use of existing infrastructure assets and the provision of infrastructure, services and facilities that are necessary to create liveable and sustainable places. This approach clearly increases expectations about the quality and accessibility of places that will be delivered. As highlighted above in Recommendation 68, further information about the consultation on the draft NPF4 is available from www.transformingplanning.scot.


Recommendation 70: Rural Localised Living

Ensure that all communities are able to benefit from the principles of localised living, inspired by the 20-minute community, by guaranteeing access to services through remote, digital and mobile provision.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports the Assembly’s recommendation to enable all communities to benefit from the principles of localised living.

 

Connecting Scotland is one of the most comprehensive national programmes aimed at tackling digital exclusion in the world, unmatched elsewhere in the UK. It provides individuals with a device, internet connection and a package of training and support. The Programme is currently open for applications via a fast-track process for organisations working with people who are on a low income and digitally excluded - in particular, older people, disabled people and single parents.

In total, the Scottish Government has committed over £48 million to Connecting Scotland and by the end of 2021 we aim to have reached the target of bringing 60,000 people online. We are now working to scope out an extension to the programme to reach 300,000 people by then end of this Parliament.

As previously mentioned at Recommendation 66, the R100 programme is central to our plans for a green economic recovery from COVID-19 and will ensure universal access to superfast broadband by the end of 2021.

Through our Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) programme, we are also investing in future-proofed infrastructure to improve rural 4G mobile coverage. Through an investment of £28.75 million (including £11.27 million of European Regional Development Funding), we are now delivering future-proofed, 4G mobile infrastructure at up to 55 mobile “notspots” – providing connectivity in remote rural and island areas.

These policy initiatives are critical to support communities to be able to benefit from localised living principles. They will advance equality of opportunity for people living in rural areas and island communities who will experience an increase in digital connectivity. They will also increase community cohesion by increasing opportunities for people who have had limited internet connectivity to access employment, education and other services online.


Recommendation 71: Create New, and Support Existing, Work Hubs

Create new, and supporting existing, work hubs / shared work facilities where someone can go to work, whether they are self-employed or an employee.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government will support the creation of new work hubs, and support existing work hubs.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in working from home as the default position for most Scottish Government employees, although it is clear that working from home may not be the right space for everyone all of the time. The Scottish Government is leading by example and currently trialling three pilot Local Hubs. These hubs provide Scottish Government employees with the option to use buildings close to home, which is a more resilient and greener solution to business delivery.

To support the concept of local living, hubs are demand-driven and located in towns and major settlements close to where colleagues live, limiting emissions associated with commuting and supporting local communities. As a first step the pilot project responded to a desire from Scottish Government colleagues, who would normally commute into the main office buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow, to work closer to home. Analysis identified potential cluster areas which then resulted in three locations for trial. Evaluation and feedback will help determine demand and support recommendations for the future.

To help facilitate a wider roll-out of work hubs across Scotland, the Scottish Government has also commissioned a programme of work with Scottish Futures Trust. This work will scope existing and planned local work hubs to identify key types and their key characteristics and understand how they support better local outcomes. The research will aim to identify the benefits of work hubs to communities and businesses, and will be used to inform next steps on how and where wider opportunities could be achieved.


Recommendation 72: Free Wi-Fi and Support Access to Smart Devices

Work towards ensuring the availability of free Wi-Fi for all, and support access to smart devices for all, to close the digital divide.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government partially supports this recommendation, and will commit to enhancing digital accessibility for those currently excluded, although it cannot be legislated for, as telecommunications is a reserved matter.

 

Telecommunications is reserved to the UK Parliament, and so the Scottish Government does not have any legislative or regulatory powers to mandate operators to provide a free or low cost service. This means that the provision of free Wi-Fi is not feasible. However, a number of steps are being taken to expand digital connectivity and therefore narrow the digital divide.

We know from evidence that cost is the greatest barrier to getting online. According to the latest (2019) Scottish Household Survey, over a third (35%) of the lowest income households, those with a net annual income of £10,000 or less, had no internet access at all.

People who are digitally excluded are disproportionately disadvantaged due to the extensive role digital accessibility plays supporting people to flourish in educational, economic, social, employment, access to services, and well-being terms.

Work has already been trialled in this space. The 2017/18 Programme for Government contained a commitment around the delivery of free public Wi-Fi. This encountered many difficulties – in particular around the inability to secure operational expenditure across required partners, even where initial capital was available to fund the installation of kit. However, we do understand that both BT and Virgin Media offer social tariffs at lower cost to some in receipt of means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit.

Good quality digital connectivity is more vital than ever, and the impacts of the pandemic have only served to reinforce that – likely permanently changing the working habits and patterns of many people across Scotland. Our R100 commitment to deliver access to a superfast (>30 megabits per second) connection to every home and business in Scotland will be delivered via three strands – £600 million R100 contracts with BT, our R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme and continued commercial coverage. Build has commenced in the main contracts and any premises unable to receive a superfast connection by the end of 2021 will be eligible for an interim voucher for installation of a temporary solution. The vast majority of premises eligible for intervention in the main R100 contracts with BT will receive future-proofed gigabit capable (>1,000 megabits per second) connections offering speeds in excess of the original superfast commitment.

More recent work does partially address this recommendation. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we also launched the Connecting Scotland programme, which aims to tackle digital exclusion. The programme provides people with a device and connection with unlimited data for two years, as well as training and support.

The programme was initially aimed to reach up to 9,000 people at clinical risk from COVID-19. Building on its initial success, the programme has been extended to reach 60,000 people on low incomes by the end of 2021, backed by £48 million of Scottish Government investment.

We are now working on an extension to the programme, with the aim of reaching 300,000 digitally excluded people over the course of this Parliament.