UCL European Institute


Shaping the territory in Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders

15 November 2013, 12:00 am

Eventbrite - Shaping the territory in Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders

Event Information

Open to


15 November 2013

15 November 2013, 9am-5.30pm

Bloomsbury Suite
Friends House
173 Euston Road
London NW1 2BJ

The event is free but registration essential. Book your place below!

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Shaping the territory in Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders. Analysing contemporary debates on devolution and/or independence from a spatial planning and territorial cohesion lens.

Several member states of the European Union have, in recent months, been faced with a strengthening of claims for territorial independence, or for more devolution, from one of their constituent regional units with a strong regional/national identity. Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain, and Flanders in Belgium are the most notable examples. Such claims are not new and have a long political history. What seems to be new is their intensification in a context of economic crisis of the nation-state and of the EU, leading particular regions to contest the current model of fiscal redistribution in place at the national level and demand that structural changes be implemented in order to gain the 'true' means to steer and finance their own development. A close look at the media and political discourses surrounding the Scottish, Catalan, and Flemish questions in recent months reveal that arguments related to the 'politics of territorial solidarity' (Béland and Lecours, 2008), to territorial justice, spatial redistribution and the financing and planning of large-scale infrastructural developments have gained strength, perhaps at the expense of more 'culturalist' and identity-based arguments.

This public seminar brings together geographers and spatial and regional planners - whose disciplines and practices are centered on notions of territorial justice, spatial redistribution, and infrastructural planning - in dialogue with political scientists, public policy and international relations experts specialized in the study of intra-state conflicts, devolution and federalism. The aim is to analyse the current debates on the devolution and potential independence of Scotland, Catalonia, and Flanders from a spatial planning, regional policy, and territorial cohesion perspective.
The following questions will be addressed:

  • How has the 'spatial planning culture' of these three regions/nations changed since they gained a high degree of devolution? What differences have emerged in comparison with the planning culture of the wider state of which these regions/nations are a constituent unit?
  • What competing visions and models of spatial justice, territorial solidarity, and territorial redistribution are at stake in the current discourses of pro-independence, federalist, and more centralist/unionist advocates in the three countries/regions? Which 'legitimate' scales of inter-territorial solidarity are advocated?
  • How have spatial planning and territorial development issues gained ground as important arguments in the current political debates (e.g. rail infrastructure planning, energy planning)? How is spatial planning mobilized in the political agendas of various parties in those territories?
  • What kind of spatial planning and regional policy implications would the future scenarios currently debated by politicians have for the regions/nations concerned?
  • How do these current debates fit within the discourse on a 'Europe of the Region', the debates on the future of EU Cohesion Policy and on the notion of 'territorial cohesion'?

The seminar is organized by

  • Dr. Claire Colomb (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), a spatial planner and urban sociologist working on urban and regional policies in Europe, European spatial planning, transboundary cooperation, and the transformation of spatial planning cultures in Europe.
  • Dr. Kristin Bakke (UCL School of Public Policy), a political scientist working on intra-state conflicts, decentralization, and the dynamics of self-determination movements.
  • Prof. John Tomaney (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), a geographer specializing in local and regional development, regional policy and devolution.

The seminar is funded by the UCL European Institute and the UCL Bartlett School of Planning. For further information, please contact Dr. Claire Colomb at the Bartlett School of Planning (c.colomb@ucl.ac.uk).

Provisional programme

09:00 Welcome
09:15 Spatial planning, territorial cohesion and calls for devolution and/or independence in an EU of the region
Dr. Claire Colomb & Prof. John Tomaney, UCL Bartlett School of Planning
09:45 Decentralization and the mitigation of intra-state struggles
Dr. Kristin Bakke, UCL School of Public Policy
10:15 Q&A
10:30 Coffee break
11:00 Devolution and Scottish spatial planning: milestones and key challenges
Jim Mackinnon, former Chief Planner & Director of the Built Environment of the Scottish Government (2000-2012)
11:45 Changing the culture of Scottish planning
Dr. Andy Inch, University of Sheffield, Department of Town & Regional Planning
12:15 Lunch
13:00 The evolution of spatial planning in Flanders since the first Flemish Spatial Structure Plan of 1997 and the challenges posed by the current political debates in Flanders and Belgium
Dr. René van der Lecq, Project Manager for the new Spatial Policy Plan (in preparation) of Flanders, Flemish Ministry of Spatial Planning (Ruimte Vlaanderen)
14:00 The transformation of spatial planning in Catalonia and the challenges posed by the current political debates in Catalonia and Spain
Prof. Oriol Nel·lo, Autonomous University of Barcelona, former Secretary for Territorial Planning (Chief Planner) of the Generalitat (government) of Catalonia (2003-2011)
15:00 Coffee break
15:30 Comparative reflection: Spatial justice and regional calls for devolution and/or independence in an EU of the regions
Prof. Michael Keating, Chair in Scottish Politics, University of Aberdeen & Director of the Scottish Centre for Constitutional Change
16:15 Round table discussion with all speakers
Chair: Prof. John Tomaney, UCL Bartlett School of Planning
17:00 End
This event is funded under the European Institute Small Grants Scheme 2012-13.