The Law School of the University of Aberdeen will be hosting the 2018 BILETA conference on 9-11 April. BILETA is one of the leading scholarly associations in law, technology and education and its annual conference – with its opportunities for dissemination, publication and friendship – is for many one of the highlights of the year. The conference title is “Digital Futures: places and people, technology and data”; and reflecting contemporary challenges and the conference location, a particular emphasis will be placed on energy, sustainability, cultural, rural and development issues and pedagogy.
BILETA is both challenging and welcoming and PhD students are particularly welcomed (including through the availability of two prizes). There is also an overall Taylor and Francis prize. Key note speakers this year will be Professor Ronan Deazley (Queen’s University Belfast) exploring heritage and creativity; and Professor Margaret Ross (University of Aberdeen) exploring the impact of technology on the student experience, with particular reference to mental health.
Professor Abbe Brown, conference organizer, is excited at bringing the conference to Aberdeen. She sees this as an opportunity to showcase (in particular): ongoing work in information science at the University of Aberdeen; and innovative developments across Scotland in information technology and education, notably through law clinics. And perhaps most importantly, she has arranged for a cèilidh and piper…
The call for papers is here (deadline 26 January 2018) and proposals for papers and also for posters are most welcome.
Being chosen as a ‘Future Leader’ by the British Council coincided serendipitously with the LLM in International Commercial Law with Professional Skills [Arbitration] I began in 2017. ‘Future Leaders Connect’ ran for the first time as a nine-day residential program during October 2017 designed by the British Council to promote policy leadership amongst ‘Future Leaders’ in various policy fields. 50 members met in the UK for nine days of activities, travelling from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia, USA, and across the UK to be part of the global network of emerging policy leaders. Thanks must go to the School of Law which was supportive in facilitating the trip halfway through a semester!
To qualify for the program – as one of two Scottish delegates – I submitted a policy idea related to the UK Government Department for International Development ’s 2017 Economic Strategy on leveraging development funding by working with the private sector in priority areas including large-scale infrastructure projects in developing countries. In my mind, potential issues include failure to deliver on contracts and issues of accountability on a global scale; likely implications include the emergence of a new genre of legal issues with negative impacts for the poorest of the poor. Potential issues can be addressed with effective, accountable, and targeted policy and are the kind of issues investigable with an LLM in International Commercial Law. The Future Leaders Connect programme also provided a platform to discuss these ideas with participants and sector experts.
The most important lesson I learned from the Program was to identify the ‘little big thing’ – one small thing that can be changed as steps are made towards developing bigger global changes through effective policy implementation. These ideas were shared over the first five days of the program at the Møller Centre at the University of Cambridge where we considered what it means to be a leader, methods for researching policy, and engaging people. After the theory and research, we went to London to visit No.10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, the BBC, and take part in the #WalkTogether event involving Kofi Annan and Richard Branson. At Parliament, groups were set up to develop policy ideas with Members of Parliament – working with Baroness Uddin, our group discussed future policy ideas around artificial intelligence to create three specific recommendations to present at a panel discussion; this took our theory, learning, and engagement experiences full circle.
Most of the value came from the networking, mixing of different cultures, backgrounds, disciplines, and expertise which helped me develop both hard skills to build on my academic interests, underpinned by new theoretical approaches, and appreciate the value of influence and networking through soft power. I learned to recognise the fluidity of leadership and power, particularly how to fill spaces to take responsibility and strategically ride the tides of leadership, as opposed to trying to force management opportunities. The opportunity helped my professional development because it legitimised policy concerns I’ve developed through professional experience and academic curiosity; the Program provided the opportunity to escalate these issues and legitimised our concerns.
A common query amongst all the Future Leaders was understanding what had made our applications stand out and why were we selected. It seemed obvious to me why the others were selected; they are remarkable. All the future leaders shared the attitude of being less preoccupied with being out in front; instead, our primary interests are the disciplines in which we are actively engaged. If you want to apply for the Future Leaders Connect Program in 2018; do it – I didn’t think I’d be accepted onto the program, or that I qualified as a ‘Future Leader’.
Emma Jones is working towards an LLM in International Commercial Law with Arbitration at the University of Aberdeen, having returned from working in Kampala – Uganda for two years on public policy issues related to democratic governance, peace, and security for Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment [ACODE]. Prior, Emma earned a first-class BA in Development and Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, undertaking internships in the development sector alongside study. Her interests include the impact of and relationship between the public and private sector in leveraging development capital, and mitigating of negative impacts on vulnerable global populations. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
The planning system in Scotland is set for more reform, including once again reform to the process of plan making. In launching its Programme for Government 2017-18 confirmed that a new planning bill will be introduced, “to support the effective and efficient delivery of the development our communities need” through “…a simpler, more effective system of development plans, to set a clear view of how areas might develop in the future” (PDF, page 33).
Having worked, taught and thought about planning for 30 years, I think this statement, made by Nicola Sturgeon in 2017, could equally refer to many of the reforms proposed over the years to the landmark Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 and the later Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. And, come on, Nicola, the development plan is no longer the only plan in the town and country planning system. A plethora of plans are now required within and beyond the planning system in Scotland. Most of them were introduced by the SNP administration over the last 10 years. I want to step back in this blog post and ask:
Are there too many plans?
Do the plans ‘talk’ to each other?
Should the plans be combined?
Planning in Scotland today
The planning system is, in my opinion, both, insufficiently nimble, and a block on new development, particularly housing development. Previous reforms have only added to the problems. Bob Reid put it very clearly in a recent article in the journal Scottish Planning and Environmental Law:
“The current planning regime in Scotland is unbelievably complex and few but the most devout adherents of bureaucracy would demur from that fact. Far from being facilitating, enabling and sleeves rolled up can do, I am afraid that decades of manning the barriers has turned our plan led system into an almost completely regulatory framework focused entirely on the statutory core of planning”.
(“Housing Crisis? What Crisis” S.P.E.L. 2015, 167, 8-9 (available on Westlaw)
The 2017-18 Planning Bill will:
extend the National Planning Framework to 10 years
abolish strategic development plans
create regional partnerships.
maintain 32 Local Development Plans
abolish Supplementary guidance
introduce local place plans
revive SPZs as Simplified Development Zones
But over and above these anticipated reforms relating to plan making in Scotland, I have noted an increasing tendency for the Scottish Government to respond to policy issues by requiring a plan to be created. To illustrate this I will briefly review some of the current Scotland wide plans.
The National Planning Framework(NPF) is now in its third iteration, with a 4th expected in 2020. It provides a strategic overview of Scotland with a focus on the implementation of National Developments to ensure that large scale infrastructure is provided. For example, The Queensferry Crossing, was identified as a National Development in NPF 2 2009. National Developments are determined by the Scottish Government and although they require planning permission from the various planning authorities in which they are located, the principle of the National Development has already been decided. The rest of the NPF is regarded as a material consideration in local planning decisions.
Scotland’s National Marine Plan adopted in 2015 is another new national level plan. It covers all marine and coastal development and activities, as well as marine conservation and Marine Protected Areas in Scotland’s territorial waters and extending out to 200nm. This plan was central to the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and powers to extend the plan out to 200 nm derive from the devolution settlement and through and the Marine and Coastal Access act 2009, by executive devolution. Decisions made in Scottish waters must have regard to the marine plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
1. Are there too many plans? I like the creation of plans as a way of creating policy. I particularly welcome the plans which take Scotland as a whole. It is the only sensible approach in a small but diverse country. All too often decision making has suffered from being compartmentalised in terms of both sector and geographical location. Scotland requires more connections and holistic approaches in both the approach to development and to conservation; to address really difficult issues such as housing, transport, climate change and economic development. These cross local and legal boundaries and jurisdictions over land and sea. It is very good to see topics such as climate change and rural development being dealt with at national level and the expertise brought to all the national plans is to be commended. But plans require to be implemented and it is important for that to ensure that at the very least the national plans ‘talk’ to each other.
2. Do the plans ‘talk’ to each other? All the plans are required to take into account each other. The jurisdiction of the NPF extends to low water and the national marine plans goes inland as far as high tide. The NPF and the Land Use Strategy are considered complementary. I do not think this is enough. There is still too much ‘silo’ mentality and the only way to consider the country as a whole is to combine the national plans into a super plan for future Scotland.
3. Should existing plans be combined? I say a resounding YES. It would be complicated in the short term to combine the 3 national plans. Different legislation and policy would have to be examined and considered. But this is an opportunity for a real joining up and momentum for action. Disparate government departments and disciplines would have to work together, as well as multiple agencies and NGOs. It would be newsworthy and engage the Scottish public and the wider world.
REAL Planning Reform for Scotland
There are not too many plans in Scotland. The plans that have been created for urban and rural areas the infrastructure, for rural development and for the marine areas have been developed with care and expertise. But they need to do more than nod to each other. They need to do more than even talk to each other. The NPF, the Land Use Strategy and Scotland’s National Marine Plan plans should be amalgamated and combined to create one plan for Scotland. This can be the starting point for all strategic planning for Scotland as a whole.
Planning reform in Scotland should include unified and holistic plans across the urban, rural and seas of Scotland. Such bold and creative action could galvanise the various disparate development and conservation strands and spark creativity and action in a unified and clear purpose: to plan Scotland.