Economic and social impact Campaign

What the 2021 Scottish Parliament election manifestos mean for the built environment

Last updated: 29th April 2021

With the 6 May 2021 polling date for the Scottish Parliament election just around the corner, the main political parties in Scotland have now published their manifestos, setting out their plans and policy intentions for the next parliamentary term should they be elected.

This page outlines some of the key points and pledges made by each party.

For a more detailed analysis of the policies set out in each manifesto, take a look at our comparison document by clicking the download button below. 

Download the Manifesto Comparison Document

Scottish Labour

The Scottish Labour manifesto, entitled Our National Recovery Plan, focuses on the nation’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in five areas, including jobs, the NHS, education, climate and communities. It promises to find solutions which “ensure Scotland comes back a better, stronger and fairer nation than the one which went into lockdown last year,” and makes several key pledges, including:

  • A jobs guarantee for every young person in Scotland.
  • Delivering 200,000 zero carbon social homes over ten years.
  • Upgrading all homes to EPC C or higher by 2030.
  • Restructuring the Scottish National Investment Bank to support ‘capital for good’ projects.


On the quality of the built environment, the party promises to support stricter regulation of fire safety and building standards in high-rise buildings, including the use of cladding materials. They also pledge to revise mandatory minimum space, quality and energy performance as part of a long-term housing strategy which will be overseen by a new National Housing Agency.

To support skills and education, a Jobs for Recovery scheme is outlined, promising a guaranteed role in the public sector for at least six months for anyone under 25 currently unemployed. A Scottish Skills Benefit will also provide £500 retraining grants to those currently unemployed or on furlough, and the manifesto sets out plans to create 5,000 new apprenticeships in the next financial year.

On net zero, the Labour Party’s manifesto sets a target to upgrade all homes to at least an EPC C or higher by 2030, and zero carbon where possible by 2045. It also pledges to build 200,000 zero carbon social homes over the next 10 years.

Other measures promised include abolishing council tax and introducing a high street bailout plan, including business rate cuts for non-grocery retail premises.


The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party

The Scottish Conservative & Unionist manifesto, Rebuild Scotland, focuses on preventing a second independence referendum and promises to “keep our country united and focused on our national recovery from the pandemic.” It sets out measures to:

  • Build 60,000 affordable homes.
  • A £500 ‘Right to Retrain’ account for every Scottish adult.
  • Invest £2.5bn on improving the energy efficiency in buildings over the next 5 years.


On building safety and quality, the manifesto pledges to ban the use of combustible cladding on buildings and identify all buildings in Scotland where combustible cladding is used, remediating   them where necessary. It also promises to amend planning laws to prioritise local planning decisions and community-led development.

The manifesto sets out new, rapid retraining courses to provide short term courses targeted at employment opportunities, as well as expanded funding for Foundation and Graduate apprenticeships with guaranteed off-the-job training.

A £200m Road Maintenance Fund to repair potholes will be allocated, and the party promises to place the Infrastructure Commission on a statutory footing to ensure investment in regional infrastructure.

Other measures include a 25% business rate relief in 2022-23, and permanently increasing the threshold for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax to £250,000.


Scottish National Party (SNP)

In its manifesto, Scotland’s Future, Scotland’s Choice, the SNP outlines its “bold and ambitious policy programme to kickstart and drive recovery,” and focuses on self-determination, pledging a second independence referendum after the pandemic has ended if elected. The manifesto sets out several priorities, including:

  • Delivering 100,000 affordable homes by 2032.
  • Investing £500m to support new jobs and reskill people.
  • Allocating £33bn over the next five years in a National Infrastructure Mission.
  • Decarbonising 1 million homes by 2030.


On build quality and safety, the manifesto promises to invest £100m to support homeowners requiring an EWS1 Report, including a system of single assessment to determine what remedial work is necessary. It also sets out plans to introduce a statutory new housing standard by 2024, covering all new and existing homes and including aspects such as repairing and safety standards, minimum space standards, digital connectivity, futureproofing and energy efficiency. 

A Young Person’s Guarantee is outlined, promising a university, college, apprenticeship, training place or job for everyone aged 16-24, as well as £100m investment towards a Green Jobs Fund over the next five years.

Other pledges include freezing income tax rates and bands and maintaining the current rates and bands of Land and Building Transaction Tax for the full parliamentary term.


Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Scottish Liberal Democrats manifesto, Put Recovery First, focuses on economic, social and environmental recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, promising to “put recovery first,” rather than prioritising an independence manifesto.

Key pledges in the manifesto include:

  • Creating a job guarantee for 16–24-year-olds.
  • Delivering 60,000 affordable homes.
  • Moving 1 million hones to net zero emission heating by 2030.
  • Delivering a Universal Basic Income.


On the built environment, the party promises to change planning regulations to make it easier for local authorities to adapt to post-pandemic circumstances, including extending permitted development rights for vacant and derelict land and introducing a First Time Builder’s Fund to support building in rural areas.

In addition to a job guarantee for young people, the manifesto promises £5,000 Scottish Training Bonds to help people retrain, and 2,000 paid graduate internships with small businesses in 2021-22.

The party also promises to declare home insulation a national strategic priority, and to increase energy efficiency standards for all new build housing to either Passivhaus or EPC A.

Other key pledges include replacing the council tax system to make it fairer, and reforming business rates to include a land value element.


Scottish Greens

In the Scottish Greens’ manifesto, Our Common Future, the party focuses on the action it believes should be taken to address the climate emergency and sets out what it says is “a bold plan to build a better future for all of us over the next five years and through to 2030.” The manifesto sets out several key pledges, including:

  • Expanding the Young Person’s Guarantee to all under 30 and those in fossil fuel industries.
  • Building 70,000 new homes by 2026.
  • Investing £7.5bn in a green infrastructure programme over the next five years.
  • Allocating £3bn of this fund to creating warm and zero carbon-homes, including a large-scale deep retrofit programme.

On building quality, the party promises to review the Scottish Housing Quality Standard to ensure it is fit for purpose and introduce a Scottish Quality Mark in partnership with the energy efficiency and domestic renewables sectors. It also pledges to undertake planning reform to include the climate as a material consideration in all planning decisions and empower community-led development.

In addition to expanding the Young Person’s Guarantee, the manifesto promises to increase support for apprenticeships, as well as growing the Green Jobs Fund and Green Jobs Workforce Academy.

On net zero, the manifesto sets a target of installing 500,000 heat pumps by 2030 using new green heat grants. It also aims to require all new homes to meet Passivhaus or net zero standards from 2022.

Other key measures include replacing Council Tax with a residential property tax related to land value, and partially replacing the level of corporation tax at the UK level with a carbon tax.