Scottish walking charities urge government to invest in walking

Ganavan is a popular destination for those out walking in Oban.

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Walking charities in Scotland have launched a new call for the Scottish Government to Walk Back Better, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May.

Living Streets Scotland, Paths for All and Ramblers Scotland will share a new manifesto for walking at an online launch event today, January 26.

Walk Back Better: a manifesto for 2021 calls for:

  • Investment in a £50m infrastructure fund to develop local walking routes, long distance routes, green neighbourhood networks and support under pressure mountain locations;
  • Improved walking and wheeling conditions, including reducing pavement clutter, providing toilets, seating, signage, safety improvements, improved crossings and basic path and pavement maintenance;
  • Improved access to local amenities, ensuring the planning system prioritises and delivers development within walking distance of local facilities as part of the 20-minute neighbourhood agenda;
  • Increased investment for delivery of walking behaviour change programmes that particularly target the most vulnerable and help to reduce inequalities;
  • Measures to improve safety, including a national speed limit of 20mph in all cities, towns and villages and enforcement of pavement parking legislation;
  • Investment in walking to school and reducing traffic and pollution outside school gates.

Although up to a third of Scots are not currently active enough, 71 per cent of adults visited the outdoors at least once a week during last year’s lockdown – and this rose to 80 per cent by August 2020, according to a report published by NatureScot.

The manifesto’s aim is for Scotland to become a ‘healthier, cleaner, safer and happier walking nation’, locking in the benefits of walking by providing improved opportunities for people to walk regularly.

Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland, said: ‘We’re pleased to be launching the Walk Back Better manifesto at a critical time. After nearly a year of people taking exercise and essential journeys on foot during Covid-19 lockdowns, plans to keep the nation walking are more important than ever.

‘The increases in people walking, has highlighted the lack of good infrastructure to support safe and enjoyable travel by foot. Communities that lack local facilities within walking distance have had challenges. That’s why we are calling for investment in everyday walking to build back better after the pandemic, and respond to the challenges of air pollution, climate change and Scotland’s health record.’

Ian Findlay CBE, chief officer of Paths for All said: ‘We launch our manifesto at a crucial point of change for Scotland as we begin to plan for life after Covid-19. During lockdown, we have seen a rise in the number of people walking as many used it as a way to cope with the pressures of everyday life, to reach essential shops and services in their local area, and to connect with others and nature in a safe way. But we need to do more to make regular walking an enjoyable and accessible choice for everyone in Scotland, from all walks of life. By investing in walking programmes and safe, attractive places to walk we can significantly improve the nation’s health, reducing health inequalities and pressure on our NHS.’

Brendan Paddy, director of Ramblers Scotland, said: ‘Our joint manifesto makes a compelling case for investment to make walking safe and attractive for everyone in Scotland.

‘We believe walking can play a vital role in Scotland’s response to the challenges of Covid-19 and climate change – and the obesity, biodiversity and mental health crises we face. Booming numbers are enjoying the outdoors in the Covid era and we need to support these people to continue to get all the health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor recreation for years to come.’