Everyone in Scotland, whether urban or rural, should have easy access to nature as part of their everyday life, according to the new chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Ian Ross, who takes up his post this week, and so presumably wants to make a splash straight away, says it is crucial that the wider social, economic and health benefits of enjoying nature are available throughout the country, for everyone:
'Nature is of course important in its own right, but it also benefits the public in so many ways, not just for those who get out and enjoy it but for society as a whole' he said.
'One of the key benefits is improved physical and mental health, which can ease the burden on the health service, as well as improve people’s quality of life.'
'Outdoor learning and play is important in giving our young people the best start in life and supporting a range of educational outcomes. Getting involved in environmental volunteering can develop interpersonal and social skills, self-esteem and sense of achievement. This builds self-confidence as well as practical skills, which are crucial for employment in any sector. And of course this type of involvement greatly reduces costs to the tax payer of looking after the natural environment. It’s vital that daily access to nature and all its benefits is available to everyone, and not just those in rural areas.'
Mr Ross said the majority of the population will benefit from easier access to nature through the Central Scotland Green Network, in which SNH is heavily involved:
'The CSGN includes projects that will affect those who most need it, such as the work with Scottish Government Health, NHS Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland to create green spaces around hospitals and GP surgeries. Our work on the new John Muir Way [see UKH news here, Ed.] will also be a huge boost to the central belt, giving the people of Scotland as well as visitors the chance to enjoy some of the best of central Scotland’s outdoors.'