Walking our way back to a happier and healthier Scotland

by Chris Fairbairn

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Pre covid image showing LtoR Andy Sinclair (Head of Active Scotland), Lee Craigie (Scotland's Active Nation Commissioner) and Craig McLaren (Chair of the National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum) Scottish PR for Paths for All

TWENTY-SEVEN of Scotland’s most influential public and third-sector organisations have jointly called for the country to “walk back better” as society reshapes following Covid-19.

A statement, written on behalf of bodies listed below including Scottish Natural Heritage and The University Edinburgh has called on the nation to embrace recent positive societal impacts in relation to walking experienced during the pandemic.

The organisations involved in the statement comprise the Delivery Forum tasked with implementing the Scottish Government’s ambitious National Walking Strategy.

Facilitated by the country’s walking charity, Paths for All, the group wants to harness the increased numbers of people walking and wheeling locally, connecting with nature and boosting individual physical and mental wellbeing in the process.

With significant changes already visible within our towns and cities; through the temporary introduction of wider pavements, closed roads for traffic to encourage walking and cycling and reductions in speed limits, the group hopes these will not be seen as just temporary measures.

Backed by Scotland’s Active Nation Commissioner, Lee Craigie, the statement sets out how walking and wheeling should be a significant factor in how we ‘build back better’ and move forward to a ‘new normal’.

Lee said: “We believe that by encouraging more people to walk more often, and by creating safe and attractive places to walk, we can harness some of the positive societal changes that the Coronavirus lockdown has brought and begin to rebuild our communities for the better.

“It should be done in an equitable way within and across our communities to support a reduction in health inequalities.

“Just a 30-minute daily walk is one of the best ways to look after our physical and mental health – and right now is the perfect time to experience these associated benefits.

“From continuing to encourage local walking for ‘daily exercise’ to supporting people to walk for short journeys to the shops, to work, and to schools, we’ll move forward from this pandemic to a healthier, cleaner, safer and happier nation.”

Image showing two social distancing walkers in Glasgow

In the statement, the National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum pledges that it will champion walking across Scotland, while working to ensure that people and walking are put first in national and local planning developments.

It will also advocate for better, safer walking environments and safer urban spaces, as well as promoting walking as part of public transport journeys and as an important way to look after physical and mental wellbeing.

It wants more of us to engage and encourage walking initiatives, seek to shift from private vehicle use to public and active modes of travel and that developers place walking environments at the heart of the “green recovery”.

It also calls for 20mph limits to be implemented in towns and cities while ensuring pavements are safe, maintained and clear for all, while supportive for older people through regular seating and by allowing for more time at traffic signals.

Craig McLaren, Chair of the National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum added: “As we move forward, we want to see a commitment to walking and wheeling embedded into how we designed our towns and cities.

“There are a number of real opportunities to do this through the new National Planning Framework, the National Transport Strategy and any post COVID19 approaches used to stimulate a green recovery”.

Scotland has embraced walking more during lockdown than any other part of the UK (YouGov: 61% walk more than before the pandemic) – owing to its physical and mental benefits.

The 27 organisations calling for Scotland to ‘walk back better’ are: Active Scotland, Cairngorm National Park Authority, Central Scotland Green Network Trust, COSLA, Cycling Scotland, The University of Edinburgh (OPENspace and PAHRC), Forest and Land Scotland, Greenspace Scotland, Living Streets Scotland, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland , Paths for All, Planning Aid Scotland, Public Health Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, Regional Transport Partnerships, RTPI Scotland, SAMH, Scottish Canals, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, sportscotland, Sustrans Scotland, Transport Scotland, Visit Scotland, and VOCAL.

More information on Scotland’s National Walking Strategy can be found here: http://stepchangescot.scot/

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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