Equality is integrated throughout Scottish planning legislation and guidance. A core value of the planning service is that it should be inclusive and engage all interests as early and as effectively as possible.
I highlight to the cabinet secretary the petition that was submitted to the Parliament on 3 December by the East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum. It relates to shared-space schemes, which include the Catherine Street junction in my constituency, and the petitioners refer to the lack of consideration by East Dunbartonshire Council of the proposal’s impact on the visually impaired and the mobility impaired. Can the cabinet secretary give the group any advice?
I am aware of the petition and can confirm that officials have listened to the concerns of representatives from local disability groups. In general, shared-space schemes can be appropriate in some settings to put people and place before the movement of motor vehicles, but the decision is very much one for local decision making and local authorities on a case-by-case basis. It is clear that the forum’s members and people like them should be given every opportunity to ensure that the space allocation in their community is absolutely adequate to their needs.
Does the cabinet secretary share my concern, which Guide Dogs Scotland has also expressed, that people with significant visual impairments, dementia and mobility problems cannot orientate themselves through shared spaces because there are no significant landmarks?
I am very aware of the problem. Indeed, this morning, I launched the new official place standard tool, which will help local authorities and others to address some of these issues. The point that Dennis Robertson has raised is valid, and every planning authority—indeed, every department of every authority, including central Government—should take full account of it.