Nicola Sturgeon outlines range of green space, landscape and environmental policies

Scotland's first minister has pledged to double annual investment in walking and cycling, expand green space, increase pollinator-friendly planting and increase woodland and community growing areas.

Caledonia Way is part of the National Cycle and Walking Network. Image: Sustrans
Caledonia Way is part of the National Cycle and Walking Network. Image: Sustrans

In A Nation with Ambition policy document, published yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon pledged to build an active nation "putting active travel at the heart of our transport planning", including doubling the annual spend to £80 million a year, from 2018-19 and appointing an Active Nation Commissioner.

She said the Scottish Government would build on work already done by the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN), Europe’s largest greenspace project, to "improve the quality of people’s lives and help tackle inequalities" targeting public green space improvements in deprived areas.

The document pledges to:

  • Improve the quality of publicly owned green spaces for recreation and community use, for example, community growing.
  • Deliver 25 pollinator projects along the John Muir Way to create Scotland’s first pollinator-friendly urban corridor.
  • Support local authorities to increase pollinator planting on roadside verges, public green spaces and similar areas.
  • Increase space available for community growing.
  • Introduce Low Emission Zones (LEZs) into Scotland’s four biggest cities between 2018 and 2020 and into all other Air Quality Management Areas by 2023.
  • "Work towards" delivering a long distance walking and cycling route to replicate the success of the North Coast 500 for motorised transport.
  • Continue investment for walkers, cyclists and equestrians on the A9 corridor, including 35 km of new cycle track to connect the A9 route with the wider National Cycle Network
  • Increase the budget for woodland creation by £4m in 2017-18 and work with timber users to develop, promote and facilitate the use of home-grown Scottish wood.
  • Support tree-planting partnerships, such as between community groups, public and private sector
  • Restore a further 500 hectares of ancient woodland on Scotland’s National Forest Estate.
  • Establish 650 hectares of new woodland as part of the New Woodland Investment Programme.
  • Evaluate current practice around reinstatement of trees removed during development of infrastructure.
  • Develop a long-term action plan to identify and exploit market opportunities with the Forest and Timber Technologies Industry Leadership Group.

The document follows research by Sustrans and Scottish Natural Heritage which found that nearly 80% of users say they do more physical activity as a result of The National Walking and Cycling Network in Scotland. Some 52% said the network allowed them to actively travel on foot or by bike rather than taking the car.

An estimated 8.7 million walking and cycling trips were taken on the network in 2016, but researchers believe that this could be a conservative estimate of usage. 87% of the walking trips and 67% of the cycling trips were taken for recreational purposes, generating an estimated £85m expenditure in the local economy.

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