A group of young people enjoy an outing in the Arrochar Alps

A group of young people enjoy an outing in the Arrochar Alps

A coalition of outdoor groups is calling for the Scottish Government to appoint an outdoor recreation champion.

The Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance issued the call in a manifesto published ahead of the May Holyrood elections.

The alliance said such a post would help everyone in society benefit from being active in nature. The new cross-departmental role is one of several ideas in the joint manifesto published by SORA, aimed at supporting the booming demand for the outdoors.

It also called for a guarantee that every primary and secondary school pupil has at least one week away at an outdoor centre. The manifesto also called for long-term strategic investment in infrastructure such as facilities, ranger services, education and skills training.

There should be more support for BAME communities and people in deprived areas to engage with the outdoors, it said, along with the creation of a stand-alone fund for outdoor recreation, including paths and signage.

The alliance pointed out a major independent survey published this month by the David Hume Institute showed 36 per cent of people in Scotland spent more time outside in nature last year than before, with 58 per cent of people in Scotland intending to spend more time outside in future.

SORA member Helen Todd, who is Ramblers Scotland’s policy manager, said recruiting an outdoor recreation champion would help all government departments – from health and tourism to the economy and equalities – capitalise on the surge in outdoor recreation.

She said: “We need an outdoor recreation champion working across government departments to ensure that everyone throughout Scotland shares the benefits, and pleasure, of being active in the natural environment.

“Scotland has been great at marketing our amazing scenery and outdoor activities, but this hasn’t been matched by investment. Indeed, the Scottish Government’s funding for access has flatlined for more than a decade at £8.m a year.

Walkers at the Falls of Clyde near New Lanark. Photo: SNS Group/Ross MacDonald

Walkers at the Falls of Clyde near New Lanark. Photo: SNS Group/Ross MacDonald

“SORA’s manifesto for the outdoors offers a hopeful and practical vision of a more inclusive outdoors, which will benefit the economy, environment, local communities and everyone’s health and wellbeing, as part of a green recovery from Covid.”

The manifesto was developed by Ramblers Scotland, British Horse Society, Cycling UK in Scotland, Mountaineering Scotland, ScotWays and Scottish Canoe Association. It is also supported by The Outward Bound Trust, Scottish Adventure Activities Forum, Scottish Countryside Rangers Association, Scottish Wild Land Group, HorseScotland and Scottish Orienteering.

More details are on the Ramblers’ website.

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