MINISTERS have come under fire for ignoring specialist decision-making as it emerged they overturned nearly all appealed planning decisions made last year by the agency it tasks with protecting the nation’s heritage and half of those made by local authorities.

Scottish Government Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) data shows that ministers overruled councils on 45% of their planning decisions on appeal last year.

It has emerged that the Scottish Government overturned five out of six decisions by Historic Environment Scotland the lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s built environment.

HES is responsible for more than 300 properties of national importance. Buildings and monuments in their care include Edinburgh Castle, Skara Brae, Fort George and numerous smaller sites, which together draw more than five million visitors per year.

It is solely responsible for decisions on the designation of listing historic buildings and the scheduling of nationally important sites as monuments which helps provide protection from neglect and allows them to be saved for future generations.

The DPEA details show that 164 planning decisions out of 367 were overturned by the Scottish Government in 2021/22.

The Scottish Government Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) annual report shows The worst affected local authority area was Shetland where both decisions taken to appeal in the year were overturned while in Argyll and Bute six out of seven decisions made locally were booted out.

Dundee City, Clackmannanshire, East Dunbartonshire, South Ayrshire, and Highland Councils all saw more than 60 per cent of the decisions they made overturned on appeal.

As many as 18 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had a rate of half or more of their decisions lost on appeal by Scottish Government ministers.

Ministers overturned none of the decisions made by East Ayrshire, Midlothian, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire councils.

They related to just 12 planning appeals Where an application has been refused consent or has been granted subject to conditions by a local authority, a developer may have the right of appeal to the Scottish ministers. A reporter from the DPEA will deal with the appeal either via written submissions, a public hearing or a public inquiry. The Scottish Ministers may uphold or dismiss the appeal, or reverse or vary any part of the decision of the planning authority.


Among the most controversial plans to be be approved by Scottish ministers on appeal was a plan to build an Andy Murray museum among with 12 tennis courts on Park of Keir between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan.

The Park of Keir Development was led by Judy Murray who had said it would stand as a fitting legacy for her tennis star sons Andy and Jamie.

It was rejected by Stirling Council in 2015 after the blueprint attracted more than 1000 objections. However, in 2017, following an appeal, a Notice of Intention for its approval was issued by Scottish ministers And four years later planning permission was with ministers arguing that the benefits of the development are “sufficient to outweigh the loss of green belt at this location”.

Opponents argued that the complex – which will also included 19 luxury homes, an 18-hole golf course and a four-star hotel – would destroy the rolling landscape and native woodland of Park of Keir.

But Scottish ministers called the application in for review by the government-appointed reporter Timothy Brian who concluded the tennis and golf centre in particular “would make an important contribution to the aim of increasing participation in both sports while providing facilities for the community. There will also be economic benefits, to the local area and more widely.”

But Dunblane Community Council said the decision "ignores widespread local concerns and makes a mockery of the planning process".

Questions were subsequently raised about whether the relationship between Judy Murray and Nicola Sturgeon influenced a controversial decision by the Scottish Government to override the rejection of the multi-million-pound luxury development and grant permission for the taxpayers' money-backed project. Sportscotland – a public body answerable to the Scottish Government – made a “provisional allocation of up to £5 million in its forward budgeting for the development”.

The relationship between Judy Murray and Nicola Sturgeon has come under scrutiny after a 2015 email with the subject “re: update: Stirling Council decision – Park of Keir tennis proposal”, an official from Active Scotland – part of the Scottish Government – says: “As discussed, the FM and Judy Murray are expected to have a meeting in the new year to discuss the development of tennis in Scotland and it is more than likely the decline of the proposal will come up.”

Among the overturned HES decisions were decisions to give three “brutalist” tower blocks in Aberdeen a conservation status that offered the same level of protection enjoyed by Edinburgh Castle and the Forth rail bridge.

Eight flats initially received A-listings on account of their “outstanding architectural and historic interest”. They used granite in their construction in keeping with Aberdeen's Granite City moniker and officials claimed the "distinctive" high rises help tell the story of post-war Scotland and how Aberdeen was earmarked for "significant economic growth" and a new era of civic regeneration.

Aberdeen city council appealed against the move, claiming listed status would affect its ability to maintain and repair the blocks. They also claimed the ruling was “perverse” in light of the Grenfell Tower fire that claimed the lives of 72 people.


The Scottish government partially agreed with the decision of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and awarded five of the buildings special status, but overturned the decisions to list three other buildings.

Scottish Conservative local government secretary Miles Briggs has accused SNP ministers of a “power grab” on local authorities and holding a “blatant disregard for local views”.

He is to bring forward a Local Government Powers and Protection Bill to ensure councils are protected against what he called SNP centralisation and finally receive a "fair funding" deal after years of “savage” cuts.

He said: “This is the latest clear evidence of an SNP power grab on our local authorities.

“It is completely unacceptable that almost half of [planning appeal] decisions made by our local authorities in the last year were then overturned by the Scottish Government.

“It is what we’ve come to expect from SNP ministers though who love centralisation and ignoring the views of local communities.

“The SNP like to pretend they know what’s best for local communities, but then they arrogantly overrule a whole host of decisions made by councils."

Lawrence Fitzpatrick, the leader of West Lothian Council has admitted has said he is "stunned" after the Scottish Government overturned six out of 12 local planning decisions.

They included a controversial extension to the Glen Turner Distillery site increasing the number of maturation warehouses from 2 to 21, despite fears it could lead to a black fungus covering local homes.

Mr Briggs added: “We know the impact planning application outcomes can have on local communities, and it those local people who know how best how decisions will affect them.

“It shouldn’t be up to out-of-touch SNP-Green ministers who are miles away in Edinburgh to overrule local decisions.

“The SNP should start treating our councils with the respect they deserve rather than always seeking to meddle in their business.

“The Scottish Conservatives are fully committed to standing up for our 32 local authorities, by ensuring no planning decisions made locally would be overturned and enshrining a fair funding deal for councils in law, after years of savage SNP cuts.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The vast majority of planning appeals that come to Scottish ministers are decided by an independent reporter who is required to take into account local views and make the decision on the planning merits of the case in accordance with the local development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

“During the last financial year, a total of 172 planning appeal decisions in Scotland were made by reporters. In contrast, approximately 27,000 planning applications are decided each year by Scotland’s local planning authorities, of which around 94.5% are granted.”

It comes as the DPEA said it will experience real terms budget cuts for the next three years and have put in processes to become "more proportionate and efficient" in its work.

It said this work has already resulting in faster processing times for onshore wind proposals and "contributing to the achievement of Scottish Government renewable energy targets".The DPEA said that in the course of 2020/21 it received just three formal complaints regarding their work in 2021/22 down from seven in 2020/21 and 13 in 2019/20.

But if a complaint is about the outcome of an appeal, the body says the decision of the reporter is final and cannot be revoked or reviewed by DPEA or by ministers.

People are made aware of their statutory right to appeal to the Court of Session on a point of law.