08 April 2016 by Helen Todd
Mountains, lochs, glens, forests and a superb coastline – Scotland has natural beauty in abundance. Fact.
Our natural heritage is a huge draw for visitors and an amazing setting for outdoor recreation. There’s no argument there – half of Scotland’s visitors come for the scenery and nature. Yet at a political level, we just don’t do enough to promote the benefits of getting outdoors and being active.
Whether you’re into sea kayaking, cycle touring or just going for a gentle stroll, all these activities and more are backed up by an outstanding natural environment and world-class public access rights.
Simply put, Scotland has a huge natural advantage which we should be capitalising on to make a transformational change in the culture of Scotland. This concept is at the heart of our manifesto for the upcoming Holyrood elections.
Scotland has a poor health record, compounded by low levels of physical activity. It’s time to get the message out to politicians that we should be inspiring and encouraging everyone in Scotland, from all backgrounds, to get outdoors and be more active, more often, whether with friends or family, as part of a school trip, or as individuals.
We’ve even built an easy tool so that you can email your own candidates and call for change in just a few clicks.
Everyone should feel they belong in our countryside and greenspaces, and value our landscapes and wildlife, enjoying the many benefits of being active outdoors.
We know that being physically active reduces risk factors in a whole range of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes, but being in a natural environment is especially good. It adds to our sense of wellbeing and helps to address mental health problems such as depression.
However, these benefits are not spread equally across all society. Those from the most deprived areas live further away from any accessible, quality greenspace and have lower levels of participation in sport or physical activity.
Paving the way for more people to be active outdoors will reap huge dividends and help to save the NHS money in the long run. Scottish government policy on physical activity is already strong, but the pace of change is too slow.
Politicians need to provide the conditions for a step change in behaviour and culture to happen, spreading the benefits across all of society.
More investment in outdoor recreation would make the countryside welcoming for all. Our manifesto sets out various proposals to make this happen, including:
- more paths and bridges
- more signage and promotion
- removing obstructions
We’re also calling for greater protection for our world-famous and valued landscapes which provide such an inspirational setting for recreation, and a new designation of National Recreation Areas.
These are times of austerity, but the funding needed is relatively modest and is a long term investment towards a healthier, more active population. And remember that people also spend money when outdoors, with Scottish Natural Heritage estimating £2.6 billion of expenditure in 2012 related to recreation.
A more active population fully engaged with the natural world would be good for our individual physical and mental health, our environment, for social justice and also for the economy.
I hope our politicians can see the facts and are ready to take that first step.
||Helen is our Campaign & Policy Manager for Ramblers Scotland. If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, you can email her directly through firstname.lastname@example.org