Call for government champion to capitalise on rising numbers outdoors

Joint press release by Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance

A dozen outdoor organisations are together calling for a new Outdoor Recreation Champion role to be created within the Scottish Government, to ensure everyone in society benefits from being active in nature. 

The new cross-departmental role is one of several innovative ideas within a joint manifesto published today by Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance (SORA), aimed at supporting the booming demand for the outdoors.

SORA’s Manifesto for the Outdoors also calls for: 

  • A guarantee that every primary and secondary school pupil has at least one week away at an outdoor centre
  • Long-term strategic investment in infrastructure such as facilities, ranger services, education and skills training
  • More support for BAME communities and people in deprived areas to engage with the outdoors
  • The creation of a standalone fund for outdoor recreation, including paths and signage

The publication of the manifesto before the Holyrood elections in May is timely given a major independent survey published this month by the David Hume Institute (DHI) showed 36% of people in Scotland spent more time outside in nature last year than before, with 58% of people in Scotland intending to spend more time outside in future.

SORA member Helen Todd, who is Ramblers Scotland’s policy manager, said that recruiting an Outdoor Recreation Champion would help all government departments – from health and tourism to the economy and equalities – capitalise on the surge in outdoor recreation. 

Ms Todd said: “We need an Outdoor Recreation Champion working across government departments to ensure that everyone across Scotland shares the benefits – and pleasure – of being active in the natural environment. 

“Scotland has been great at marketing our amazing scenery and outdoor activities – but this hasn’t been matched by investment. Indeed, the Scottish Government’s funding for access has flatlined for more than a decade at £8.1million a year.

“SORA’s Manifesto for the Outdoors offers a hopeful and practical vision of a more inclusive outdoors – which will benefit the economy, environment, local communities and everyone’s health and wellbeing, as part of a green recovery from Covid.”

The manifesto was developed by Ramblers Scotland, British Horse Society, Cycling UK in Scotland, Mountaineering Scotland, ScotWays and Scottish Canoe Association. It is also supported by The Outward Bound Trust, Scottish Adventure Activities Forum, Scottish Countryside Rangers Association, Scottish Wild Land Group, HorseScotland and Scottish Orienteering.

Download the full manifesto.