SURF provides written and verbal evidence to relevant policy consultations conducted by the Scottish and UK Governments, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), and Committees of the Scottish Parliament.

SURF members are regularly contacted for their views to inform the development of a SURF response on a particular consultation. Some of our response papers are available for download below.


National Good Food Nation Plan

In April 2024, SURF participated in the Scottish Government’s consultation on the first proposed iteration of a National Good Food Nation Plan. Drawing on policy outcomes from our 2023 Annual Conference, we argued the Plan should adopt a commitment to significantly increase the number of community growing spaces across Scotland.

Local Democracy

In February 2024, SURF engaged with the Scottish Government’s second major consultation towards a Local Democracy Bill. We held a dedicated consultation event and provided a formal submission covering themes around community empowerment and place-based regeneration, including community powers, representation and accountability, setting boundaries, and resources & relationships.

Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill

In February 2024, SURF submitted evidence to inform the development of the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill. The Bill is intended to ensure that decision-making processes in the public sector do more to increase the wellbeing of Scotland’s current population and future generations.


Democracy Matters - Phase Two

In October 2023, SURF held a member consultation event to inform our response to a second Scottish Government phase of its Democracy Matters local governance review. The purpose of the consultation is to, “Have your say on local communities deciding their own future.” SURF network views are recorded in an outcomes report, available for download below.

Community Engagement in Local Development Plans

In September 2023, SURF responded to this Scottish Government consultation on the quality of draft guidance for planning authorities and community groups. The purpose of the guidance is to improve community engagement in the production of local development plans, which cover local authority regions and national parks.

Permitted Development Rights

In August 2023, SURF contributed to a Scottish Government review of permitted development rights – with a targeted request concerning low-income households in world heritage sites.

Local Living

In July 2023, SURF responded to a consultation on draft planning guidance to support aspirations for local living and the creation of more 20 minute neighbourhoods across Scotland.

Community Wealth Building

In May 2023, SURF responded to a Scottish Government consultation on Community Wealth Building. SURF provided feedback on legislative options for implementing the new approach to establishing more sustainable local economies, and drew attention to wider barriers around implementation.


Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation

In October 2022, SURF responded to a Scottish Govenrnment consultation towards a new Land Reform Bill that aims to diversify land ownership patterns while progressing linked policy agendas around climate change, economic development and community empowerment. SURF shared views on proposed new obligations for ‘large-scale’ landholdings, highlighted the different rural and urban dynamics in land reform, and argued that policy-makers should take action to implement the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement in practice.

Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2)

In April 2022, SURF engaged with a Transport Scotland consultation on STPR2, which provides recommendations to Scottish Government Ministers on transport policy and investment decision-making over the 2022-2042 era. SURF welcomed recommendations around access to affordable public transport, active travel, strategic connectivity, and decarbonisation of the transport network, but called for more attention on bus service provision, community engagement, and a more joined-up experience between active travel and public transport.

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) – Scot Govt

In March 2022, SURF provided a submission to a consultation on the Fourth National Planning Framework, or NPF4, which clarifies the Scottish Government’s national spatial planning priorities up to 2045. SURF welcomed the general aims and themes, and drew attention to concerns around a lack of resources for implementation, a limited focus on proactive planning in deprived places, and SURF network requests for clarity on where NPF4 sits among a busy regeneration policy landscape.

Land Rights and Responsibilities Review

In January 2022, SURF submitted a response to a Scottish Government consultation on its 2017 Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. Five years on, SURF provided views on: the relevance of the vision and principles; general awareness of the Statement; and how to report on implementation. We also suggested three case studies demonstrating the value of the principles in practice.

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) – Committee Scrutiny

In January 2022, SURF responded to a call for views by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee on the development of NPF4, the Scottish Government’s long-term plan for national planning priorities that sets out strategic objectives, regional goals, and major projects.


Scotland’s Public Finances and the Impact of COVID-19

In August 2021, SURF contributed views and evidence to the Finance and Public Administration Committee of the Scottish Parliament, to inform the to support the Committee’s process of scrutinising the Scottish Government’s budget for 2022-23. SURF argued that additional targeted investment in areas including community development, town centre regeneration and retrofitting housing and civic buildings for energy efficiency would help to mitigate the disproportionate impact of the pandemic in deprived places.

Local Place Plan Regulations

In June 2021, SURF provided a written response to proposed regulations for Local Place Plans, a provision of the 2019 Planning (Scotland) Act. The response articulates SURF network concerns around the provision of adequate resources to enable the development of robust LPPs, and suggests two options for a minimum requirement on seeking the views of local people.


Town Centre Action Plan Review

In August 2020, SURF contributed oral and written evidence to a Review Group tasked by the Scottish Government with refreshing the 2013 Town Centre Action Plan. Our response featured SURF network views on challenges and opportunities for town centres in the pandemic context, and highlighted SURF Awards examples of best practice.

Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery

In May 2020, Benny Higgins, Chair of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, wrote to SURF requesting its views on the economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. SURF’s response to selected questions set the by the independent Advisory Group was informed by cross-sector experts in the SURF network.

COVID-19 Impact on Communities

In May 2020, the Scottish Government commissioned a programme of research into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected personal, community and societal wellbeing. SURF was invited to respond to a survey, and in doing so we highlighted the challenges and priorities raised by our members and stakeholders.


A Culture Strategy for Scotland

In summer 2018, the Scottish Government opened a full public consultation on its plans to, “develop Scotland’s first ever culture strategy based on the principles of access, equity and excellence.” SURF’s response included a comment on the Scottish Government’s vision and highlighted the value of further promotion of more mutually beneficial links between the culture, heritage and place-based regeneration policy agendas. It also argued for more effort in improving the capacity of socially and economically challenged places to engage meaningfully with cultural assets and opportunities.

Compulsory Sale Orders

At the Scottish Government’s request, the Scottish Land Commission invited SURF, as part of a small group of experts, to explore the productive potential of introducing Compulsory Sale Orders. A substantial Scottish Land Commission paper, proposing the purpose and practicalities, was subsequently submitted to the Scottish Government for consideration, and is available for download below.

South of Scotland Enterprise Agency

Following its 2017 Enterprise and Skills Review, the Scottish Government committed to establishing a new enterprise agency for the Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders regions. A summer 2018 consultation invited views on what activities the new Agency should deliver, where it should be based, and how it could best respond to the region’s economic challenges.  SURF’s response featured learning outcomes from Alliance for Action activities in the Dumfries & Galloway town of Langholm.

Democracy Matters Conversation

The Scottish Government and COSLA jointly launched a review of local governance in May 2018, which is designed to identify new legal rights for communities in decision-making on how public services in their area are run. SURF held a pre-consultation conference on 22 March 2018 in Glasgow as part of a wider consultation to inform SURF’s response to the review. A short paper available below presents perspectives from different sectors of the SURF network, which were the subject of discussion at the conference.

A Connected Scotland

In its 2016-17 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government announced that it would be developing a national strategy to reduce the growing social problem of isolation and loneliness. SURF’s response to an early 2018 consultation urged the strategy to deliver targeted activity in deprived areas, accompanied by wider action in community development, art & culture, transport, technology, urban design processes, and volunteering.


Culture Strategy – Early Engagement

In 2017 the Scottish Government’s launched a stakeholder engagement exercise to inform the development of a new culture strategy for Scotland. SURF’s statement highlighted the fundamental relationship between arts & culture and place-based regeneration, and presented a number of practical suggestions for inclusion in the new strategy, including some raised in our Bridging Culture and Regeneration activities.

Socio Economic Duty

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan of 2016 featured a Scottish Government commitment to oblige public bodies in Scotland to consider socio-economic disadvantage when making strategic decisions. SURF, which had argued for such a policy in its 2016 Manifesto, warmly welcomed this commitment. The Scottish Government subsequently consulted on the development of the socio economic duty prior to planned introduction before the end of 2017.

Guidance on Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land

Scottish Ministers are obliged by the 2016 Land Reform (Scotland) Act to issue new guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land. Draft guidance was produced for consultation in March 2017. In SURF’s response, we said that the draft guidance was a helpfully concise paper, and argued that it should be supported by effective promotion and further support in practical policy.

City Region Deals

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee invited evidence on the development and implementation of the City Region Deals regeneration and infrastructure model in Scotland. Our response highlighted the positive aspects and concerns raised by the SURF network with respect to the planning and delivery of City Region Deal investments.

Future of the Scottish Planning System

The Scottish Government consulted on the content of a new Planning Bill on the back of an independent 2016 review into Scotland’s spatial planning system. SURF’s in-depth response highlighted a number of exemplars and covered community & spatial planning alignment, Local Place Plans, and the need for wider and more inclusive community engagement.

Devolved Management of Crown Estate Assets

One outcome of the 2016 Scotland Act was a UK Government commitment to transfer responsibilities for the management of Crown Estate assets in Scotland – including rural estates, fishing & mineral rights – and much of the seabed and coastline – from HM Treasury to the Scottish Government. Ahead of the scheduled transfer on 1 April 2017, the Scottish Government’s Marine Scotland Directorate consulted on the long term management of these assets and scope for further devolution.

Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement

As a follow-up to the 2016 Land Reform (Scotland) Act, the Scottish Government consulted on a draft statement of guiding principles concerning the development of public policy on the nature and character of land rights and responsibilities in Scotland.

Glasgow Job Centre Closure Plans

The UK Government’s Department of Work and Pensions consulted in early 2017 on plans to close job centres in Glasgow’s Bridgeton, Castlemilk and Maryhill. SURF highlighted the deprivation levels in the three communities and requested that the plans be reconsidered in the context of community, poverty, business and service user impacts.


Enterprise & Skills Review

The Scottish Government carried out an ‘end to end’ review of its four enterprise and skills agencies (Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, and the Scottish Funding Council) in mid-2016. SURF’s response to a call for evidence identified geographic and social/economic imbalances in the regeneration functions held by the two skills agencies.

Supporter Involvement in Scottish Football

In September 2015, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on whether new rights for Scottish football supporters should be embedded into legislation on the back of the 2015 Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act, including the rights of fans to influence, govern, bid for or buy their local football club. SURF’s response is based on the outcomes of our 2007-08 investigation (see first leg and second leg reports) into the ‘intangible assets and goodwill’ around football clubs in Scotland and their potential to contribute further to local community regeneration activities.


Strengthening Local Democracy

In October 2013, CoSLA established an independent Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy with a view to improving local public services and accountability in Scotland, regardless of the outcome of the 2014 independence referendum. SURF responded to the Commission’s initial consultation with a general comment on ‘localism’ in regeneration and responses to set questions around community participation in local decision-making.

Scottish Planning Policy

In undertaking a review of its 2010 Scottish Planning Policy statement on nationally important land use, the Scottish Government invited public comment on a 2013 draft update. SURF’s response to this consultation welcomed the establishment of  ‘town centre health checks’ by local authorities, and argued for a greater focus on community engagement and monitoring & evaluation.

Inquiry into the Delivery of Regeneration in Scotland

This inquiry was initiated by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee. SURF’s response focused on: what regeneration is; whether physical, social and economic aspects of regeneration can be addressed separately; which delivery mechanisms are best-suited to sustainable community regeneration processes; what the Scottish Government could be doing differently to support community capacity building; and the most appropriate approaches to monitoring & evaluation.


Community Empowerment & Renewal Bill

SURF welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that it would use the legislative process to support greater community involvement in local delivery of regeneration and public services. In commenting on the 2012 consultation paper, SURF  said that any realistic aspirations for increasing community empowerment will require considerable investment and challenging discussions on local power and resources. We also answered set questions on the Community Planning process, community councils and ‘community right to buy’ legislation.

Procurement Reform Bill

In August 2012, the Scottish Government consulted on the development of a Procurement Reform Bill for formal introduction to parliament the following year. SURF’s response to the questionnaire asserted that more could be done to secure meaningful and genuine community regeneration outcomes from the deployment of Scotland’s £9bn public procurement budget.


National Regeneration Strategy

The Scottish Government conducted a wide-ranging consultation to inform the development of the Achieving a Sustainable Future National Regeneration Strategy, published in December 2011. In SURF’s June 2011 response to the related Building a Sustainable Future discussion paper, we highlighted shortcomings in past regeneration policy and argued that greater consideration should be given to issues of hyper-consumerism, poverty, health, housing refurbishment, and support for education and skills.