USERS of Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network injected £1.9 billion into the local economies they passed through in 2019.

A new report from NatureScot, Sustrans and Scottish Canals has shown what appear to be the huge benefits of the network – which includes Scotland’s Great Trails, the National Cycle Network and Scottish Canals towpaths, and stretches a total of 6879km – for the country's economy, tourism, health and wellbeing.

Walking and cycling trips on the network are also estimated to be taking 19.5 million car journeys off the road over the year, saving 7.1 million kg of CO2e.

Since 2015, NatureScot, Sustrans and Scottish Canals have been working together on a programme of improvements to the network, spending £30m on improving 625km of strategic walking and cycling routes. Work has included upgrading and resurfacing routes, improving links with public transport, bridge building, signposting, removing stiles and replacing gates, installing benches and improving lighting.

NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “This research demonstrates the enormous benefits – and huge potential – of the National Walking and Cycling Network for local communities and users alike.

“Covid 19 has led to a surge in the number of people accessing the great outdoors close to home, reinforcing the need to build on that potential. The report also highlights the important role that active travel can play as a nature-based solution to climate change.

“At NatureScot we are making a significant investment in the network to support a green recovery from the pandemic, tackle climate change and help more people enjoy the outdoors, particularly those groups that are currently underrepresented. Most recently this includes almost £111,000 to make improvements on several of Scotland’s Great Trails, improving access for all.”

Deputy CEO of Sustrans, John Lauder, said: “The rise in walking, wheeling and cycling over the past number of months has demonstrated huge public appetite to make happier and healthier journey choices across Scotland. Many people, regardless of age or ability, have discovered their local active travel routes for the first time. We now have a huge opportunity to maintain this momentum and deliver a fair, prosperous and green recovery for everyone in Scotland.

“This report demonstrates the huge environmental, health and economic benefits of investing in walking, wheeling and cycling. Bold, long-term support and backing is now needed to build upon this positive shift towards active journey choices.”