Scotland has a strong relationship with landscape and nature.
Whilst regularly accessing wilderness or countryside may not be easy for everyone, our villages, towns and cities boast a wealth of greenspace. These spaces are a vital piece of local infrastructure, providing benefits for physical and mental wellbeing, creating space for biodiversity and nature in our communities and often acting as key social spaces for communities to meet, relax and play.
The importance of greenspace is widely recognised in Scotland's policy landscape – from health to regeneration, early years to planning, biodiversity to climate change.
Action to protect, enhance and promote green infrastructure takes place across all levels of government and Scotland has highly active and effective third sector organisations working to improve and enhance green space.
There are also more and more communities across Scotland becoming involved in the design, management and maintenance of local greenspaces, taking action and working collaboratively with partners.
Accessible greenspace in Scotland
- The total area of greenspace in urban Scotland is 159,274 hectares, excluding private gardens the total is 119,299 hectares. This is equivalent to 22 Loch Lomonds!
- Urban Scotland is more green than grey - greenspace covers 54% of the urban land area, there is the equivalent of 36 hectares of greenspace per 1000 people or 27 hectares per 1000 people if private gardens are excluded – that’s equivalent to a tennis court size of greenspace per person.
Access to green space
As part of the National Performance Framework, an indicator records the proportion of adults who live within a 5 minute walk of their local green or blue space.
In 2019, 65.6% of adults lived within a 5 minute walk of their nearest green or blue space, compared to 65.3% in 2018.
However, the indicator also shows that people living in the most deprived areas are less likely to live within a 5 minute walk of their nearest greenspace than people in less deprived areas.
Scottish Government worked with Greenspace Scotland and other organisations develop an enhanced digital greenspace map that helps identify and plan for access to greenspaces.
This is now maintained by Ordnance Survey and has details of access points into greenspaces. Open access to the data/ maps is freely available online. Greenspace is a comprehensive catalogue of accessible places, whether you want to stroll across a public park, run around a playing field, exercise at a sports facility, have fun in a play area, find the perfect picnic spot it can help you find greenspaces near you.
Access the Greenspace map here
NatureScot is Scotland’s nature agency. It works to improve the natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it.
The NatureScot Corporate Plan - Connecting People and Nature - sets out a commitments to improve green space in Scotland, including to:
- create more and better quality local green spaces for communities, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas, by engaging with communities and a wide range of partners to make better places.
- get more of Scotland’s population outdoors regularly and benefiting from nature through recreation, environmental volunteering and citizen science.
- work with local councils, transport partnerships, communities and non-governmental organisations to create the National Walking and Cycling Network and to promote its use for recreation, health and active travel.
- improve access to good-quality green spaces for communities and outdoor learning opportunities in the 20% most disadvantaged areas across Scotland.
- transform existing spaces into thriving places for people and nature through investing in the Green Infrastructure Fund and landscape partnerships, taking forward the Central Scotland Green Network and helping to develop the John Muir Way into the world’s first pollinators’ corridor.
You can access the NatureScot Corporate Plan here
Nature Scot have also developed a Placemaking Storymap, which allows users to take a look at place-based projects that help connect people to nature. Through their work, NatureScot support the planning, design, delivery and good management of successful places where everyone can benefit more from nature, connect with nature and lead healthier lives and contribute to looking after nature.
You can access the NatureScot PlaceMaking Storymap here
Playing in the neighbourhoods
The provision of high quality, accessible play opportunities for children is not just about upholding their right to play, relax and gather under Article 31 of UNCRC but is an essential feature of a successful 20-minute neighbourhood and helps families and children to live better locally.
Children’s relationships with the cities and neighbourhoods and how their needs, comfort and safety are supported in these places matter; including how they navigate round the neighbourhood and get to play spaces and other destinations safely.
Designing and managing the streets and public realm within the neighbourhood, along the routes to and in areas adjacent to schools and other destinations frequented by children in a way that prioritise pedestrian movements, facilitate low vehicular speed and provision for safe crossings are essential to enable children to walk, wheel or cycle readily and safely, thus, supporting their active lifestyles, independent mobility and long term health and wellbeing.
Children are a major part of community life in a neighbourhood. Where children play are often the places where adults meet and socialise, hence help to enrich social contacts and foster social cohesions that are fundamental to the wellbeing of a community.
Investing in children’s play is one of the most important things we can do to improve children’s health and wellbeing in Scotland.
Professor Sir Harry Burns
Scotland's Play Strategy
The Play Strategy for Scotland values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all children and young people. Play is what children and young people do in their own time, for their own reasons and free from the direction and control of adults. Play is performed with no external goal or reward, and is a fundamental and integral part of healthy development – not only for individual children but also for the society in which they live.
Children will play anytime and anywhere where they perceive the opportunities to play.
When designing places, thinking in terms of creating playful interventions helps to extend play opportunities beyond the boundaries of the traditional playgrounds. This might involve incorporating design features that allow and encourages physical, creative and social play as part of a child's daily encounter with the outdoors and can help to create more diverse, vibrant environments for everyone.
Playing outdoors not only enhances learning, is fundamental for children and young people’s health and cognitive development. It is important to provide a variety of play opportunities and different types of spatial conditions that can offer different play experiences for children of all ages and abilities.
Involving children in the design and creation of play opportunities locally not only can ensure the provisions are what they want but also foster the long-term sense of identity, belonging and stewardship.
Scotland's planning policy has a key role to play in helping to deliver high quality green spaces for communities.
The existing context
Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) sets out national planning policies for the development and use of land. One of SPP’s policy principles is that planning should protect, enhance and promote green infrastructure, including open space and green networks, as an integral component of successful placemaking. SPP says planning should provide for easy and safe access to and within green infrastructure, including core paths and other important routes.
The emerging context
Scotland's planning policies are currently being reviewed through the development of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). The NPF Position Statement recognised the role of green space as an important part of placemaking and signalled some of the most significant changes to be explored in the development of NPF4, including:
- a new approach to ensure places work for everyone, and are greener and healthier.
- expanding green infrastructure, biodiversity and natural spaces to make places greener, healthier and more resilient to climate change
- a shift in the way we plan our homes, and improve the quality of our places, with a focus on 20 minute neighbourhoods –
- new policies to promote an infrastructure-first approach to development at all scales (includes green infrastructure)
Green Infrastructure : Design and Placemaking
This document provides an overview green infrastructure as well as setting out some key design issues and techniques which can help to incorporate green infrastructure into place-making at all scales, and shows how well designed green spaces can help places to have the qualities of successful places.
Central Scotland Green Network
The Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) national development is Europe’s largest greenspace project. It is changing the face of Central Scotland, by restoring and transforming the landscape of an area stretching from Ayrshire and Inverclyde in the west, to Fife and the Lothians in the east.
Through the CSGN Development Fund more than £7 million has been invested since 2010 in projects that are promoting active travel, woodland planting, community growing and restoring land for the Central Scotland Green Network. The CSGN will connect green and blue spaces in towns and cities with the wider countryside and coast.
By 2050, Central Scotland has been transformed into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality
The network will be made up of:
- parks, public spaces, gardens (public and private), street trees, green roofs and green walls in urban areas.
- networks of natural or semi-natural habitats, such as woodlands, hedgerows and peatland, in the countryside and linking into the urban areas
- rivers, streams, ponds, wetlands and man-made structures such as canals and ‘sustainable urban drainage systems’ (blue spaces)
- cliffs, beaches and marshland which form our coastline
- existing path and cycle networks and greened transport corridors
Find out more about the CSGN here
Greenspace Scotland is a parks and greenspace charity which works to promote the delivery of good greenspace and to shape a supportive policy context for greenspace in Scotland. Their website has useful information, resources and tool to support organisations and people to become on greenspace agendas.
10,000 Raingardens for Scotland
An effective way of managing surface water and enhancing the appearance and functionality of local; areas is through the use of raingardens. Raingardens are areas of greenspace and planting that are designed to capture rainfall and slowly release it in a managed and sustainable way.
They can be an effective and natural way of managing rainfall and can be integrated into existing or new developments as part of a placemaking approach. They can be used in a variety of settings and building types and take advantage of the multifunctional capacity of green space, providing sustainable drainage solutions, creating habitat for wildlife and providing attractive and practical space for people to use.
The 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland project aims to promote and encourage the use of raingardens as a sustainable and natural way to manage water, particularly in urban areas. Their website contains more details about raingardens and about how to get involved in helping to deliver raingardens in different situations across the country. .