Issue 13

GREENING THE CENTRE OF SCOTLAND

By Keith Geddes, Chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust

… the largest greenspace project in Europe covering 10,000 km2; 3.5 million Scots-some 60% of the Scottish population live in the area.

The Central Scotland Green Network is one of fourteen strategic priorities in the Scottish Government’s third National Planning Framework. It differs from the other priorities in that it is not focussed on one major capital project; rather it seeks, through a variety of means, to improve the environment in central Scotland-and people’s perception of that environment-to make it a better place in which to live, invest in and visit.

Our vision is that ‘by 2050, Central Scotland has been transformed into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality.’

It is the largest greenspace project in Europe covering 10,000 km2; 3.5 million Scots-some 60% of the Scottish population live in the area.

The CSGN is partially delivered through the CSGN Trust and through the work of our partner organisations including the Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Canals, 19 local councils from East Lothian to South Ayrshire and various local community and voluntary groups. The work of the Trust is monitored and developed by the Scottish Government Programme Committee consisting of representatives from health, regeneration, transport, planning and other relevant departments

The Scottish Government’s current three priorities for the CSGN are vacant and derelict land; work in communities of deprivation and active travel. Those priorities are delivered mainly, though not exclusively, in areas of deprivation centred around west central Scotland.

A recent analysis undertaken by the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Green Network suggests that over the 40 year life of the project the cost of implementing the 17 separate strands of the initiative- which range from retrofitting green infrastructure in urban areas to the temporary greening of vacant and derelict land-would be in the region of £2.8bn-a figure accepted by the Scottish Government. And a Government analysis carried out on “Valuing the CSGN” suggests that the benefits of that work could be in excess of £9bn.

The £2.8bn cost figure is significant, however when the contribution from the private sector and existing spending on these components is subtracted the cost seem less challenging.

Indeed it is useful to compare the cost per resident in the CSGN area over the lifetime of the project-currently 2050-with other comparators such as health or transport.

Since the John Muir Way opened in April 2014 it is estimated that some 250,000 people have used at least part of the route with the initial target of 9,000 end to end walkers likely to be met.

Improving the quality of life for people who live in what are perceived as deprived communities, or on developing active travel links or positive projects such as the temporary greening of vacant and derelict land has a pay back in reducing costs elsewhere, especially in health.

For example figures based on the 3.5m people living in the CSGN area show that £79.5m could be saved annually by the NHS if just 1 in 100 inactive people took adequate exercise-particularly important at a time when NHS budgets are under significant strain.

Since the inception of CSGN our major strategic project has been the creation of the John Muir Way, Scotland’s latest long distance route, which stretches the 134 miles from Muir’s Dunbar Birthplace, through Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park (Scotland’s first National Park) and onto Helensburgh. It is aimed not only at attracting local Scots to take more exercise but is also targeted at the international market, particularly Muir’s adopted homeland, the United States.

Since the route opened in April 2014 it is estimated that some 250,000 people have used at least part of the route with the initial target of 9,000 end to end walkers likely to be met. The San Francisco Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal as well as the Sierra Club radio station have given the route extensive coverage attracting many American visitors to come to Scotland. And there is significant evidence of new jobs being created and businesses supported with the Dunbar Traders Association delighted with increased business footfall.

Since the CSGN came into operation in 2010 some £5.3m has been distributed through our Development Fund to 154 grants being provided to 119 projects. For the 2016/17 financial year a further £750k is available for distribution. Projects that have been funded include the Glasgow City Council Stalled Spaces Project which seeks to green vacant and derelict land where development has been delayed bringing the land into community use; the Castlemilk Woodlands initiative which turned 30 acres of neglected woodlands previously a focus for anti social activities into a community asset and the Forth Valley Orchards Initiative which helped to increase woodland cover by 19ha providing an educational and community resource.

Our hope is that by 2050 the environmental damage caused by Scotland’s industrial past will in itself become history to be replaced by a renewed quality of life for all who choose to live in central Scotland.

Keith Geddes
Is Chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust

By Keith Geddes, Chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust

Issue 13

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