Ramblers Scotland research reveals shocking inequality in the outdoors

20 September 2023

Our new research has revealed that Scots living in more deprived areas have far fewer local paths than their wealthier counterparts. 

Data-crunching by Ramblers Scotland has found shocking inequality in the number of ‘core paths’ that communities can enjoy. 

  • Residents in the most deprived half of society have a total of 4,579 miles of local core paths, compared with 10,351 miles within the least deprived half of Scotland. 
  • People in the healthiest 10% of areas have nine times (1,891 miles) more local core paths than the least healthy communities (211 miles).  

Core paths are legally designated by Scottish councils as their most important trails, with a total of about 15,000 miles of them across the nation. Ramblers Scotland compared core paths with the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, a Scottish Government system showing which areas are most disadvantaged. 

Meanwhile a major new YouGov poll commissioned by Ramblers Scotland has found that 81% of Scots think paths are a national asset. The walking charity says too many of the communities who would benefit most from easier access to nature are missing out. 

Our director Brendan Paddy said: “While we love having the ‘Right to Roam’ across nearly all of Scotland, we know people are more likely to go for a walk and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of being active in nature if they have paths close to home. This fascinating new research shows that the nation is missing an open goal, with people in more deprived places sadly being the worst affected. 

“We’re also concerned about the lack of knowledge of Scottish access rights across the board. These are surmountable problems, which is why we’re calling for investment both in path development and education about responsible access, so that everyone benefits from our amazing outdoors.” 

*Ramblers Scotland commissioned YouGov to conduct online poll between 9-14 March 2023 of 1,018 Scottish adults. It found that: 

  • 27% didn't know where paths are or where they go  
  • 22% of respondents had been stopped from walking due to physical barriers 
  • Only 18% knew how to find out where they are allowed to walk 
  • Only 8% knew how to report a blocked path. 

More than one in ten (11%) of respondents said they use Ramblers Scotland’s award-winning Scottish Paths Map to help plan and enjoy days out. 

The value of paths to wellbeing is well known, with a New Economics Foundation report commissioned by the Ramblers and published this month, showing that use of England and Wales’ path networks add over 3,000 healthy years of life to their total populations. This is worth an estimated wellbeing value of £2 billion. 

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,018 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th - 14th March 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+). 

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