Engagement, Communication & Partnerships

Public consultation and communication is a major part of the work undertaken by and on behalf of Transport Scotland. It is crucial that plans, proposals and projects are fully understood by the stakeholders likely to be impacted. The fundamental intention behind all such interventions is to improve the network in some form or other and the process from strategic planning through to scheme delivery is robustly assessed to ensure schemes reflect the stated objectives whilst meeting legal, regulatory and social obligations, including those to the wider environment.

Navigation screen for the A83 Access to Argyll virtual exhibition with links to the various elements of the consultation process.
Figure 29 Navigation screen for the A83 Access to Argyll virtual exhibition

Consultation is delivered at various stages in the scheme development, helping to capture all aspects of the likely impact of the proposal. Public exhibitions are very useful for local communities to review and assess the schemes and discuss issues with the team involved. However, it is not always easy or possible for everyone concerned with the proposed development to get to a public event.

To address this and make the consultation process more accessible, recent schemes have developed virtual exhibitions in addition to the continued physical events. As technology has improved, this facility has become more detailed and expansive, with better graphics and imagery to better illustrate the proposals. An example of this approach is the recent virtual exhibition created for the plans to improve the A83 Access to Argyll, at the well-known Rest and be Thankful (RaBT) site (see Figure 29 and Figure 30).

Figure 30 Examples of the simulated 'fly-through' models included within the virtual exhibition for the A83 Access to Argyll project public consultation
Figure 30 Examples of the simulated 'fly-through' models included within the virtual exhibition for the A83 Access to Argyll project public consultation

Environmental Forum

As part of its remit related to the management of the Scottish Trunk Road Network, Transport Scotland is supported by operating companies who are contracted to manage the estate on behalf of the agency. The contracts are complex and require the operating companies to employ a large number of specialists across a range of activities and fields. To harness this resource and ensure the collective experience is best utilised, Transport Scotland has created an Environmental Forum that meets on a quarterly basis. The forum is made up of relevant staff from all four trunk road operating companies together with representatives across the agency’s Roads Directorate, including environmental specialists and colleagues involved in operational delivery.

This forum brings together key players from different organisations in a spirit of collaboration and with a common understanding of the importance of sharing environmental good practice. The format features presentations on various aspects relevant to the management of the network and the integrated protection of the environment, alongside healthy and informative discussion and comment.

This can lead directly to proposals for amending the contract requirements or introducing new procedures to further environmental net gain.

The forum is a driver for change. It provides a positive approach to our collective obligations to support the Scottish Government’s objectives to harness the transformational change required to achieve the challenging Net-Zero targets, biodiversity recovery, and a sustainable future for Scotland.

The topics presented and discussed at the forum can be varied, from proposed adjustments to working procedures and practices on the ground (such as the example above regarding the treatment of vegetation chippings), to more speculative opportunities such as the introduction of ‘vertical gardens’ on urban and peri-urban roads, using the system developed in Mexico by ViaVertical (see ViaVerde: Application for Scotland Section).

Linear Infrastructure Environmental Management Group

Many of the assets managed by Transport Scotland are linear in profile reflecting the nature and object of transport corridors. This creates an unusual estate to manage, with inherent issues of barriers to connectivity, fragmentation of habitats and ecosystems, and a large number and assortment of neighbours to be aware of and to liaise with. However, these issues are not unique to Transport Scotland, with other organisations and bodies sharing the challenges of managing an ostensibly linear landholding.

In recognition of this, a forum was established in September 2021 to bring together organisations who have responsibility for lengthy estates or infrastructure. As well as Transport Scotland, the group includes representation from the following:

  • Office of Rail and Road
  • Network Rail
  • Scottish Water
  • Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks
  • Scottish Power Energy Networks
  • NatureScot (Chair)
  • SEPA
  • Scottish Canals

The purpose of the group is to share information on linear infrastructure issues and keep members up to date with issues such as:

  • Operations and projects
  • Consultations
  • Research
  • Guidance development

Policy and strategy development

European Landscape Convention Coordination Group

The European Landscape Convention Coordination Group (ELCCG) was established by consensus following the signing of the Convention in 2000. The group is led by NatureScot and has representation from landscape specialists from a range of Scottish public bodies. Transport Scotland is a part of the group, and there is also a link to the Landscape Institute Scotland and Scotland’s Landscape Alliance (SLA), a community consists of organisations and individuals spanning a broad range of interests across urban design, protected scenic areas, biodiversity, economic regeneration, health and wellbeing and social justice.

The remit is to further the aims of the European Landscape Convention by encouraging and recording activity in support of the protection and enhancement of Scotland’s landscapes (all landscapes).

The ELCCG, alongside the SLA, is keen to promote a revised and updated Landscape Charter for Scotland that would support the objectives of the Convention whilst delivering a realistic manifesto for promoting the need to protect the distinct character and quality of our landscapes.

Scotland’s Beaver Strategy 2022 - 2045 and Scottish Beaver Advisory Group

The re-establishment of beavers has been a notable success in Scotland. Despite being hunted to extinction in the UK in the 17th century we now have rapidly increasing population beavers across Argyll and Tayside. Whether due to the carefully controlled reintroduction programme in the Knapdale area, or the less planned development of beaver groups across Perthshire, Angus and parts of Aberdeenshire, the species is now firmly back in Scotland.

Beavers are Nature’s engineers, and they can often have a positive impact on riparian ecosystems, bring wider benefits for biodiversity and habitats. However, they can also cause damage to agriculture and infrastructure and, as a result, the Scottish Government realised the was a need for a comprehensive strategy.

Scotland's Beaver Strategy 2022-2045  supports communities to maximise the environmental benefits of beavers, while minimising negative impacts through effective management and mitigation. It was developed through the detailed consultation with and support of a range of stakeholders and interest groups, including Transport Scotland.

In addition, the agency is also part a related Scottish Beaver Advisory Group which has been established to put in place a prioritised plan of action and monitoring of the strategy delivery.