The Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland

Convener’s review of the year 2008


What a year this has been!  Planning is all about making the right connections.  In the last year we have seen clear and unforgiving evidence of connectivity, between global and local, between demand and ability to pay, between what we do and how we feel.  There’s no fatalism in understanding this.   It is with a mindfulness of connectivity that our profession can have the vision to be active, not passive.   We’re not here to amplify the world’s troubles, but to demonstrate practical ways to overcome them.

World class?   After what now seems sickening hubris, the financial Flodden around us should help us to be clear-eyed about the individual care and effort that underpin all we do, professionally and as citizens.  And less apologetic about our attention to detail or the need to do better.  We are still far from a planning system that inspires active community and business support.  We have strayed from our core values with some great ideas and some conspicuous consumption masking too much sub-prime development which is bad for everyone. We’ll have to find ways of making the unhappy accidents of the past work better in the demanding times ahead.  We can no longer assume, Madoff-like, that fine words and future growth will cover up the need to properly husband our resources and service our current stock.

The key to understanding connectivity -as always- is the knowledge that links go both ways.  That losses are gains and problems can be opportunities.  That strategic planning must be properly grounded in what is really achievable in time and space. That we must take the chances that present themselves and bide our time for the rest, never ceasing to plan ahead.

At the Institute in Scotland we’ve been mindful of the pressures on our membership.  As a profession, our strength is on the ground, and we can support each other and engage with the wider community horizontally through place (in our Chapters) and vertically through particular issues (in our networks). Together these make up a tartan of mutual support, at its best when networks come together with places (as when the politicians in planning network met in Glasgow last year). I hope some of the other networks will now be brought into chapter events in the year ahead.  As well as improving our support for Chapters, we have been taking steps to improve communication, so that the Scottish Planner can be more attractive and useful professionally, and so that we make the most of email and internet links to get messages across.  We’ve been mindful of the need to reconnect practice and education, and practice and research, and to work with our sister professions to engage young people in Scotland with the world of public service.  We have linked hands with Government through the Planning Summit and the roll-out to follow, and strengthened our vital links with Planning Aid. We’ve also been active in taking up international contacts, immensely helped by the fact that the Institute’s focus for Commonwealth planners and for European spatial planning are now right here at 57 Melville Street. 

In some parts of the world planners (and the long term perspectives they fight for) are hampered by the lack of a supporting professional organisation. We’ve got one. Let’s make it work better to make Scotland better. 

Roger Kelly January 2009


Roger Kelly convened the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Scottish Executive throughout 2008.

This message was enclosed with the first Scottish Planner of 2009 

In-year messages January 2008   April 2008   June 2008   August 2008   October 2008   December 2008 


Roger Kelly on the context of planning reform June 2009