National Walking Strategy

In June 2014 the Scottish Government published its National Walking Strategy (NWS), a long term plan to get more people in Scotland walking more often and to improve the nation’s health.

The issue
Scotland has one of the lowest life expectancies in Western Europe and there is strong evidence of the role physical inactivity plays in this.  Physical inactivity contributes to 2,500 premature deaths in Scotland each year and costs the economy £660m.  Walking is well placed to help address this situation and the NWS has been developed to increase levels of participation.  The NWS aims to create a culture where everyone benefits from walking as part of their everyday journeys and enjoys walking in the outdoors, and where places are well designed to encourage walking.  More people walking briskly for at least half an hour on most days of the week would lead to better life expectancy and decreased pressures on the NHS. 

Our position
We are very supportive of the NWS and, as members of the delivery forum we are playing our part, along with other partners in the public and third sectors, in getting Scotland to be more active.  As a charity, we help everyone, across Scotland, enjoy walking.  Our Medal Routes project in particular is identifying short, circular routes across the country to encourage more people to explore their local areas on foot, and we campaign for more investment in walking both for transport and for recreation.  It is our aspiration that the NWS and its action plan are able to create a significant step change in population behaviour and health.  To do that ambition, creativity, collaboration and, crucially, adequate resourcing, are all required.  We are eager to work with partners to deliver the action plan.

Government action
We are calling upon the Scottish government to show leadership in delivering the NWS, to demonstrate that greater investment in walking and other outdoor activities will ensure that all sectors of society gain the benefits to health and wellbeing of higher levels of physical activity.  We recognise that we are living in a time of austerity, but this investment would be part of the preventative spend agenda.  Currently the cost to the NHS of physical inactivity is estimated at £94m per year so investing in walking would help to save the NHS money in the longer term.

We first proposed the need for a NWS in a briefing for a parliamentary debate on obesity in May 2012.  Previously, in 2003, we had been involved in a government consultation by the Transport department which drew up a NWS.  However, this strategy was never formally adopted.  In 2010 a Cycling Action Plan for Scotland was published and this gave us the impetus to push for a strategy for walking too.  During the debate on obesity there was an announcement in Parliament which led to the launch of the NWS in June 2014, as a key element of the 10-year Commonwealth Games 2014 legacy plan.  In March 2016 the government published the action plan which would lead to the delivery of the NWS.

Links to additional information
The National Walking strategy website is, and you can follow progress on Twitter @stepchangescot
National Walking Strategy Infographic
National Walking Strategy and Appendix
National Walking Strategy Action Plan

Page last updated: June 2020