Date lodged: 30 January 2019
To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to improve access to woodlands and encourage people to take physical exercise in such habitats.
Answered by: Fergus Ewing 26 February 2019
Scotland’s new Forestry Strategy 2019-2029 sets out a strategic framework for action including increasing the use of Scotland’s forests and woodlands to improve people’s health and wellbeing.
Urban woodlands in particular play an important part in improving the quality of life of people in our towns and cities. They reduce air pollution and provide green spaces for recreation which have been shown to be particularly beneficial for people’s mental well-being. In recognition of this, the Scottish Government has signed the Woodland Trust’s statement promoting urban forestry.
The Scottish Government provides specific grants to target woodland creation and access in urban areas and works in partnerships, such as with NHS Greenspace to improve access at health board sites. Furthermore, the Scottish Government provides around £950k per annum to the Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT) to support the co-ordination of delivery of the CSGN. Planned woodland creation in the CSGN area is now at its highest level since 1999.
Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) acts as a responsible manager of access across Scotland’s National Forest Estate. It currently welcomes 10 million visitors annually, a figure which is growing. Visitors tale access to the Estate for a range of physical activities ranging from easy access trails and dog walking through to more challenging activities and sports such as mountain biking.
Opportunities exist across the Estate including in some key urban areas such as the Clyde Gateway where Cunnigar Loop Woodland Park is proving very popular with all age groups seeking the opportunities which woodlands and recreational facilities offer to improve physical fitness and mental wellbeing.
Details of the facilities and opportunities for enjoying access to Scotland’s National Forest Estate are currently promoted though the FES website, on social media and a range of leaflets and other media outlets. A new website will be launched for the new Forestry and Land Scotland Agency on 1 April 2019.