Measuring participation

Measuring participation in outdoor recreation helps us ensure that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

Regular research helps us to identify target audiences and develop policies and practice to encourage people in Scotland to make more use of the outdoors for recreation, volunteering and learning.

We conduct a number of different surveys to better understand how people in Scotland use, enjoy and value the natural environment.

Outdoor visits and engagement with nature during the Coronavirus lockdown

In May 2020, NatureScot commissioned research to provide an understanding of people's outdoor visit behaviour and engagement with nature during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Read Enjoying the outdoors - Research Report 1289 - Monitoring the impact of Coronavirus and social distancing - Wave 3 survey results (September 2021)

Read Enjoying the outdoors - Research Report 1255 - Monitoring the impact of Coronavirus and social distancing - Wave 2 survey results (September 2020)

Read Enjoying the outdoors - Research Report 1252 - Monitoring the impact of Coronavirus and social distancing.

NatureScot has contributed to a joint-agency publication bringing together findings relating to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown restrictions of 2020 on people’s interaction and relationship with nature throughout Great Britain.

Read Why society need nature: Lessons from research during Covid-19

Scotland’s People and Nature Survey

NatureScot commissioned the Scotland’s People and Nature Survey (SPANS) for the first time in 2013/14. Smaller-scale versions of the survey were run in 2017/18 and 2019/20.

SPANS provides data on:

  • the number and types of visits people make to the outdoors
  • what benefits people feel they get from visiting the outdoors
  • people’s perceptions of National Parks, national and local landscapes and the provision of woodland and other types of greenspace for recreation

A series of SPANS special interest reports covers:

Greenspace Scotland's 2017 Greenspace Use and Attitudes survey provides insights into the public's views and use of urban greenspace.

Scottish Recreation Survey

The Scottish Recreation Survey (ScRS) preceded SPANS. It monitored participation in outdoor recreation among adults in Scotland from 2003 to 2012.

Between 2006 and 2012, ScRS data were also used to monitor progress on the Scottish Government’s National Indicator, Increase people’s use of Scotland’s outdoors. (The Scottish Government’s Scottish Household Survey has been used instead since 2013.)

Scottish Nature Omnibus

The Scottish Nature Omnibus (SNO) monitors public attitudes and behaviours around a range of issues including biodiversity loss, wildlife, landscape, National Nature Reserves and the marine environment.

The survey has been running since 2009 and now reports on a biennial basis. Read our most recent Scottish Nature Omnibus 2019 report.

A short series of SNO special interest reports covers:

Scottish Government surveys

The Scottish Household Survey and the Scottish Health Survey collect information on the behaviour, health and lifestyles of the Scottish population to support the work of the Scottish Government. The survey findings also provide some useful insights into people's use of the outdoors, their physical activity levels, health & well-being, and attitudes towards the natural environment:

The Scottish Government has also commissioned, in collaboration with NatureScot, specific research into aspects of people’s relationship to nature and outdoor recreation:

Scotland's on a Roll

‘Scotland’s on a Roll’ shares some of the good news about the growing proportion of people in Scotland now visiting the outdoors on a regular basis and raises awareness among a professional audience of the benefits of connecting more people with nature.

This film, with subtitles has been created to communicate key research findings and messages about how people in Scotland use, value and enjoy the natural environment and how they benefit from contact with nature.
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