Ian McCall examines how committed politicians are to helping Scotland to 'Walk Back Better'
In January Paths for All joined our partners Living Streets Scotland and Ramblers Scotland to launch a call to ‘Walk Back Better’, ahead of the Holyrood elections.
During lockdown, we saw a rise in the number of people walking and visiting the outdoors as many used it to cope with the pressures of everyday life, to reach essential shops and services in their local area, and to connect with others and nature in a safe way. Many people are keen to maintain this as we emerge from the pandemic.
But we need to do more to make regular walking an enjoyable and accessible choice for everyone in Scotland, from all walks of life. More investment in walking programmes and safe, attractive places to walk and wheel can significantly improve the nation’s health, reducing health inequalities and pressure on our NHS and help address climate change.
Walk Back Better: a manifesto for 2021 calls for:
- Investment in a £50m infrastructure fund to develop local walking routes, long distance routes, green neighbourhood networks and support under pressure mountain locations.
- Improved walking and wheeling conditions, including reducing pavement clutter, providing toilets, seating, signage, safety improvements, improved crossings and basic path and pavement maintenance.
- Improved access to local amenities, ensuring the planning system prioritises and delivers development within walking distance of local facilities as part of the 20-minute neighbourhood agenda.
- Increased investment for delivery of walking behaviour change programmes that particularly target the most vulnerable and help to reduce inequalities;
- Measures to improve safety, including a national speed limit of 20mph in all cities, towns and villages and enforcement of pavement parking legislation.
- Investment in walking to school and reducing traffic and pollution outside school gates.
With the elections on 6 May, we have been looking at the party manifestos to see what they offer. There is support for much that we are asking for across the five main parties.
Perhaps most significantly:
- There is a clear consensus on increasing the active travel budget - most of the main five parties propose devoting at least 10% of transport spending on walking, wheeling, and cycling.
- There is clear support for the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods.
Whichever party, or parties, form the next Scottish Government, walking can play a vital role in Scotland’s response to the challenges of responding to Covid-19, building back better, and tackling climate change.
These are big commitments in terms of spending and scope and, as ever, the devil is in detail. Scotland has developed many great policies and strategies, but there has been less success in translating these into sustainable projects at a community level. This will be the challenge for whoever is in office after May 2021 - directing funding to make a real impact in terms of health, wellbeing, and climate change.
You can read the manifesto here and a link to our launch event is below.
Ian McCall is senior development officer at Paths for All