Ramblers Scotland' has made a number of recommendations on ways to increase the amount of people taking part in physical activity
Scotland would benefit from having a third national park, an organisation set up to represent walkers has claimed.
Ramblers Scotland say that the next Scottish Government should do all it can to boost support for outdoor recreation to make Scotland a happier, healthier place.
With one of the lowest life expectancy rates in western Europe, and strong evidence of the role physical inactivity plays in this, the charity is calling for a number of initiatives to boost walking’s popularity.
Most interesting is the charity’s call for a new national park in Harris, to add to the two existing national parks - Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and the Cairngorms National Park.
We need proper investment in the places people walk, from their local park to Scotland’s national parks
Launching its manifesto for the Holyrood election in May, the walking charity further called for investment in paths and bridges, signs and promotion; national recreation areas to be set up around Scotland; hut trails to be created to enable people to experience a night staying in remote areas; and better protection of Scottish access rights, which it says are under threat of being eroded away by obstructions and lack of enforcement of the law.
Ramblers Scotland director Jess Dolan said a political and social sea-change in attitudes towards the role outdoor recreation and Scotland’s natural heritage can both play in improving wellbeing is needed.
She added: “We need proper investment in the places people walk, from their local park to Scotland’s national parks, with better promotion of paths and routes to make it easier for people to enjoy all the benefits of being active in the natural environment.
“Our vision is of a Scotland where walking is something people do every day, as a way of spending time with friends or just keeping healthy, as a mode of transport or simply for the joy of being outdoors.
“We want to capitalise on Scotland’s unrivalled natural heritage to transform the culture of our country, so that everyone is inspired to walk the West Highland Way, climb a Munro or bag their own personal summit.”
Ramblers Scotland is the representative body for walkers in Scotland and is recognised by sportscotland as a governing body of sport. It has around 6,500 members and 56 local walking groups across Scotland which are run entirely by volunteers.
Ramblers Scotland is part of Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity, which has worked for over 80 years to secure and facilitate access, promote walking and protect the natural beauty of the countryside.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and the Cairngorms National Park were designated as such in 2002 and 2003 under the National Parks Act (2000).