Scotland is world-renowned for its incredible landscapes and varied wildlife: earlier
this year, the readers of Rough Guide voted ours the most beautiful country in the
But it’s important to remember our stunning vistas do so much more than simply bring
us joy. Nature-based tourism benefits our economy, and nature benefits each of us
personally: research shows access to green spaces improves our health and well-being.
At Scottish Natural Heritage, we have long extolled the benefits we all get from
the natural environment as well as the need to create better places for nature.
Over the past year, we have worked on a number of high-profile initiatives to help
connect people with nature and protect our wildlife and habitats.
We continue to lead the development of the National Cycling and Walking Network to
encourage people to enjoy the countryside and to help bring more tourists to Scotland.
To help improve Scotland’s carbon stores, we restored 400ha of peatlands under the
Peatland Action programme. These areas are also home to many of our well-known plants
We are implementing the Scottish Government’s Green Infrastructure initiative, part
of the European Regional Development Fund programme, with a reopening of the Community
Engagement Fund in early 2018 – and are working with a range of partners to help
improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of green spaces in Scotland’s towns
We helped develop the Hebridean Way walking route from Vatersay to Stornoway and
a cycle route from Vatersay to Butt of Lewis. These routes offer locals and visitors
a chance to connect with nature and experience the Highlands in a new way.
We will continue to work on these projects in the coming year.
Looking ahead, the Scottish Government has designated 2018 the Year of Young People.
It’s so important to provide our young people with access to nature. Research shows
childhood access to green space can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression as
adults. Early and continuing contact with nature also helps develop and maintain
a sense of stewardship and an interest in looking after our natural assets.
That’s why we’ve just launched the Future Routes fund to encourage youth across the
country to share ideas that will help young people engage with nature. Working with
Young Scot, we will help develop their ideas and bring them to life in the coming
As the new year begins, many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions. At SNH,
ours are always to ensure everyone in Scotland has continued access to green places
and that our natural habitats and wildlife are valued and looked after.
What are your goals for engaging with nature this year? You can find ideas for getting
involved with nature in your community and your local nature reserve on our new website,