Scotland Climate action and sustainable development

Seven Scottish towns take action against climate change


Anja Ekelof, Communications Manager at Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) discusses the company’s role in the ‘Climate Action Towns project’.

To enable us to adapt to the impacts of the climate and ecological emergency, we need to work together to deliver change.

Over 50% of Scotland’s population live in towns. It is therefore key that local authorities and communities are empowered to respond to the climate emergency. However, as every town has its own unique set of circumstances, demographics, and geography, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Every town needs to address and act on the many complex issues ahead if they want to adapt to the climate emergency. These include reducing and balancing the carbon emissions associated with our heat and energy; supporting significant behaviour change to tackle the emissions from our daily lives; and, adapting to the risk and impacts of climate change.

Empower communities

The Climate Action Towns project, which is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Scotland design agency, Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS), works with local people and organisations in small towns across Scotland to empower and support communities to take place-based climate action. We do this by reflecting on the unique challenges and opportunities each town faces.

It is estimated that over 60% of the changes required to reach net zero will be behavioural or societal (Climate Change Committee (CCC). For this reason, the Climate Action Towns project is focusing on the power of place-based action. This can include a wide spectrum of approaches such as:

  • Creating a resilient food network
  • Adopting the 20-minute neighbourhood by place planning
  • Establishing community renewable energy co-operatives

Or even right down to simple principles, like whether we choose to build new buildings or refurbish and adapt existing ones.

Data-driven approach

Given the aims of Climate Action Towns, we used a data-driven approach to identify potential towns. Each place was assessed against several indicators – for example the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), current and projected flood risk and sea levels, as well as previous climate work.

A&DS provides free support to develop community understanding of how planning can be used to tackle the climate emergency and the benefits of place-based collaborative partnerships. We facilitate the development of long-lasting systemic change within a town to deliver coordinated climate action.

The seven towns that form part of the Climate Action Towns programme were announced in late 2021. They are:

  1. Highlands – Invergordon and Alness
  2. West Lothian – Blackburn
  3. Argyll & Bute – Campbeltown
  4. North Ayrshire – Stevenston
  5. North Lanarkshire – Holytown
  6. Dumfries & Galloway – Annan

The project is driven by collaboration between local people and agencies and their collective vision of what their climate-ready town looks like. The outcome of the work in the seven towns will help inform climate action that can be taken in towns across Scotland and beyond.

Designing for a changing climate

The Climate Action Towns work at Architecture and Design Scotland builds on our experience from the pilot project – Designing for a changing climate – which outlined eight principles for carbon-conscious places. These are available to explore here.


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