Ramblers Scotland warmly welcomes the new Scottish government, following the SNP’s success at the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.
We also want to congratulate the new MSPs from all parties – some of whom are familiar faces to us and will know the Ramblers well.
During the election campaign we spoke with many candidates about our Manifesto for a Walking Scotland, which sets out our vision for a happier, healthier Scotland. Our underlying message is that Scotland should be capitalising far more on our fantastic natural environment and world-class access rights to encourage more people to get outdoors and be active.
As members of the delivery forum for the National Walking Strategy, we are eager to help deliver the action plan so that more people – from all sections of society – feel inspired and empowered to enjoy the health and social benefits that walking offers.
Our manifesto calls for a greater recognition of the role outdoor recreation and active travel can play in delivering many of the new administration’s manifesto promises. We will continue to highlight to all areas of government why it is in everyone’s interests to make decisions that ensure Scotland’s outdoors is welcoming and accessible.
In particular, we believe there are six key reasons why investing in walking, recreation and the outdoors makes sound political sense:
- Improving health for all: Physical inactivity contributes to an estimated 2,500 premature deaths in Scotland each year. While 64% of Scots meet minimum recommended guidelines for physical activity, this percentage is lower for older people and those from socially-deprived areas.
- Tackling mental health: Regular walking improves mood, reduces anxiety, aids sleep and boosts self-image. People who stay active have a 30% lower risk of depression and dementia, and getting active outdoors in green environments is even better for mental wellbeing.
- Saving money: The cost of physical inactivity to the NHS in Scotland is estimated at £94 million per year. More people walking 150 minutes a week would lead to better life expectancy and decreased pressures on the NHS.
- Boosting the economy: Scottish Natural Heritage estimates that outdoor recreation contributed £2.6 billion in expenditure in 2012 alone, and the Marine Recreation Survey 2015 estimated £2.4 billion was spent on marine recreation activities, including coastal walks.
- Increasing tourism: Walking is very popular with visitors to Scotland; whether international, national or Scottish residents. In fact, 55% of all visitors to Scotland in 2015 enjoyed a short walk, while 39% enjoyed a longer walk or hike during their trip. The quality of Scotland’s landscape and scenery is fundamental to the tourism industry and is a huge draw as a setting for outdoor recreation. It’s important that this is protected from harmful developments.
- Creating a greener Scotland: Walking is the most sustainable form of transport. By walking rather than taking the car, people help reduce pollution, prevent traffic jams and tackle climate change. Investment in active travel also helps tackle Scotland’s growing problem of obesity.
Put simply, the funding needed to support walking is a long-term investment towards a more healthy, active population fully engaged with the natural world, bringing widespread benefits for all.
As soon as the Parliament is sworn in, we look forward to working with the new administration and representatives of all parties on these important issues during the next five years.