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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 initial period of the Coronavirus lockdown (23 March - 28 May 2020).

Scotland’s People and Nature Survey

NatureScot commissioned the Scotland’s People and Nature Survey (SPANS) for the first time in 2013/14.  A smaller-scale version of the survey was run in 2017/18 to update findings on outdoor recreation and the health and well-being benefits associated with visiting the outdoors.

Read Scotland’s People and Nature Survey 2013/14: NatureScot Commissioned Report 679

Read Scotland's People and Nature Survey 2017/18: outdoor recreation and health modules: NatureScot Research Report 1062.

Read Scotland's People and Nature Survey 2017/18: technical report: NatureScot Research Report 1063.

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:

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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