Panning for gold?

BEFS Director Ailsa Macfarlane takes an overview of the 2021-2022 Programme for Government.

Examining the Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2021-2022 from the perspective of policy (and resource) for our existing built and historic environment is not going to start the next metaphorical gold-rush. Both play little explicit part in the meat of the Programme.

If you search, you can find slivers suggesting that our existing environment will play its rightful part in the vision brought forward for, A fairer, greener, Scotland.

The overview below seeks to highlight where there may be implications and opportunities for our existing environment, across four broad areas of interest:

The Existing Estate

Here we see the potential for traditionally built buildings to be kept in use, transformed, disposed of (opportunities of a different sort, perhaps), regenerated, and reused.

  • £10Bn over next decade to replace and refurbish NHS Facilities
  • £500M to Modernise the Prison Estate

Skills & Net Zero

This is the most obvious area to find leverage for wider understanding of what the existing built environment can provide. These green, skilled, jobs will be essential across the entire built environment stock – and more than that, without investment in maintenance as a primary step, net-zero targets cannot be met.

  • £45M partnership investment – Green Jobs Workforce Academy
  • £1.8Bn – Cleaner and greener homes – making our homes easier and greener to heat.
  • £50M Just Transition Fund – North-East and Moray
  • £100M Green Jobs Fund – upskilling, and reskilling
  • National Transition Training Fund
  • Decarbonising our homes, buildings and transport (p11). Converting 1m homes and equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings to low or zero-emission heating by 2030.
  • Circular Economy Bill – BEFS has raised in consultations previously that, until our buildings, and the resultant waste, are considered as part of the circular economy – with considerations such as Material Passports – we are unlikely to reap the necessary benefits to meet net-zero targets.
  • R100 – superfast broadband, everywhere. Making more places viable options for homes and working lives.
  • All home and building upgrades – at the point of sale, change of tenancy, and refurbishment – will be required to meet at least EPC C standards or equivalent from 2025 onwards. And all homes will need to be upgraded by 2033 to ensure we meet our climate targets. We will undertake consultation on this next year, to ensure a fair approach and avoid unintended consequences, and provide support through an upscaled grants and an advisory service. (p94) – BEFS has frequently lobbied not only in relation to the potential for skilled, green employment in relation to this work, but also on the potential for unintended consequences, many of which can occur due to traditionally built buildings not being accurately assessed (and therefore not receiving appropriate interventions) within the current EPC assessment process.

Place & Community

Place means something different for everyone, but the importance of place has seemed even more acute during the restrictions of the pandemic. There is now more talk of the quality of our places, and what places provide for citizens. Place and Community have been intertwined throughout the Programme for Government; with places’ connectivity (active, digital, social) highlighted for enhancement, and community empowerment and local democracy set to increase. Policy changes suggested below will need, as ever, appropriate resource, to fully realise the changes they intend to bring. Place Based Investment could be key to local existing assets in coming years.

  • Investing in restoring our environment (p3) – while the implication of ‘environment’ may be natural, the outcome could be green, blue, and built.
  • Ensure everyone has a safe, warm place to call home (p4).
  • Rented Sector Strategy
  • Doubling of the Scottish Land Fund
  • Natural Environment Bill – where might heritage have a place?
  • Economic transformation aligned to Wellbeing Economy principles – supports quality of place.
  • Community Wealth Building
  • 20-minute Neighbourhoods. We will support planners with spatial data, research and tools to work collaboratively in delivering 20-minute neighbourhood principles. (p56) Our fourth National Planning Framework will ensure that all future planning decisions support meeting this ambition (p96) intention to utilise Place Principle.
  • Consult on a future Agriculture Bill, setting out a vision for a new post-Common Agriculture Policy support payment system 2025-2026. (p69) – What part might heritage protection play in this? The Heritage Alliance published some clear ideas when dealing with the process in England.
  • Regional Economic Partnerships
  • Scotland Loves Local
  • Review of the Community Empowerment Act – the potential to provide more of a say over local public assets.
  • Local Democracy Bill – devolving more decisions and resources
  • Infrastructure Levy – potential for this to be enacted after being passed as part of the Planning Act previously.
  • Reform and modernise the Compulsory Purchase System
  • £325M over five years – Place Based Investment Programme. Through repurposing of land and buildings, the investment will revitalise town centres, provide new space for local businesses and jobs, and support the resilience and wellbeing of communities across Scotland (p97).


Culture feels less instrumental in this Programme for Government than many might have hoped. Whilst it’s been said that culture kept some of us sane during the tightest of the pandemic restrictions, its value here is very much focused around ‘brand Scotland’. Whilst looking outwards is an essential part of the cultural offer – without a greater understanding of the resource available to a sector ostensibly closed for 16+months – the activity listed seems aspirational, but often not fully articulated.

  • £25M portfolio of projects in 2021-2022 supporting Tourism Recovery Taskforce recommendations.
  • £6M annual Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund
  • National Towns of Culture – little detail as yet.
  • 2022 – Scotland’s Year of Stories
  • Cultural Diplomacy Strategy
  • […]refresh and reinvigorate our successful Brand Scotland activity. Over the next year we will create a new brand marque [.] (p108)
  • Strengthen our Cultural Offer (p106) – which lists, at various points: creative industries, performance, artists, design, youth music, libraries, screen Scotland, touring fund, creative and cultural businesses – but not museums, and not directly heritage.
  • We will ensure that Scotland’s cultural sector has the skills, infrastructure and opportunities it needs for continued success, and we will use COP26 as an opportunity to enhance its contribution towards Scotland becoming a net zero nation.[…] (p107)
  • We will invest over the course of this Parliament to increase industry access to capital funding to promote green cultural infrastructure across Scotland, contributing to reductions in pollution and emissions at our historic and cultural sites. (p107) – This final paragraph needs some unpicking, but could provide additional capital funding with a heritage remit.

Perhaps it is the penultimate comment on which we have to rely:

We will ensure that Scotland’s cultural sector has the skills, infrastructure and opportunities it needs for continued success…

If we were, as a cultural-heritage sector, assured of the above – then surely there is nothing that couldn’t be achieved.

Collaboration and cross-sector working will be essential – working together to enable wider skills understanding, demonstrating need, driving demand, and aligning activity to support a green recovery.

Albeit to find that continued success, resources of all kinds, and (for some) the lifeblood of visitors, may need to be sought as the final pieces of the puzzle.

BEFS suggests that Members fully explore the original document for implications related to their particular areas of interest.

BEFS Members, SURF, have produced an overview of policies in the Programme for Government related to Regeneration.

BEFS Members, RICS, have produced an overview of policies in the Programme for Government of interest to their Members.