The Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer is is bringing a new meaning to the phrase ‘playground politics’ in his bid to ensure children at his local school have access to outdoor space.

Ken Macintosh is heading up a campaign to save endangered playing fields at Busby Primary School in East Renfrewshire, where his six children attended nursery.

The local council plans to build a new nursery centre and car park on the school’s last remaining fields, but the politician is urging councillors to rethink the controversial move.

It comes as research suggests many children are being denied the chance of participating in outdoor activities as pressurised parents struggle to find the time.

Outdoor play has been shown to enhance children’s learning, confidence and resilience - and Mr Macintosh believes building on greenspace risks depriving them of this important part of childhood.

“It is no accident that schools are built with green spaces and playing areas around them, we know how important that is for our kids and their education,” he said.

“The school has already lost much of the open area around it as it has expanded over the years. We need to be careful we do not incrementally turn our school and our existing nursery into the proverbial concrete jungle.

“I think all of us as parents applaud the desire to create more nursery places, but not at the expense of building over the very space those same children need to grow up in.”

The West Scotland MSP added that one of his daughters and her Primary 4 classmates had written to loggers in the Amazonian rainforest, asking them to “think again” about what they are doing.

He said: “Wouldn’t it be ironic if our own local authority granted planning permission to build over their own green space.”

Research released today by the Woodland Trust shows that children are less likely to experience the traditional outdoor activities their parents and grandparents enjoyed, with one in five parents admitting they have never flown a kite, built a treehouse, collected leaves or played pooh sticks with their kids.

Nearly two thirds of the parents polled (64%) said they simply struggle to find the time, or were too busy with work to spend as much time as they would like outdoors with their children.

Almost a third (32%) also said their children preferred to watch TV or play computer games.

Richard Cooper, a project manager for the Woodland Trust, said: “It’s shocking to think quintessential childhood experiences like playing conkers and den-building are passing by children in the UK.

“Our native woods are some of the world’s biggest playgrounds - perfect for adventures.

“The Woodland Trust wants to inspire the next generation, with over 1200 woods across the country that are free to explore.”

The survey, commissioned in partnership with clothing brand Joules, questioned 1200 parents and found that almost half of them believe technology and screen time are impacting on connection with nature.

More than a third (39%) also blamed gaming fads such as Fortnite for kids being stuck indoors.

Claire Tait, head of marketing at Joules, said “Whether it’s going on woodland walks, building a den or playing nostalgic games like pooh sticks, every season offers new opportunities to connect with nature and appreciate our woodlands.”

She added that Joules and the Woodland Trust had created a Let’s Explore activity pack aimed at encouraging families “to put on their coats and wellies, get outside and explore the great outdoors, whatever the weather”.

Many schools and nurseries across Scotland are now recognising the value of outdoor learning and play.

The Scottish Government has also recognised its worth and earlier this year invested more than £800,000 in encouraging more outdoor learning in early years.

Given that the move to build on greenspace at Busby Primary has attracted more than 140 objections, it seems that parents realise the value of outdoor play too.

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “We have engaged with parents as part of the process and as the plan progresses will ensure that this dialogue continues. If the plans are approved, the facility will enhance the outdoor space available for the children attending the nursery, as due to the ground conditions on this piece of land it is currently used extremely infrequently by the school or nursery.

“We are absolutely committed to making the area one the most desirable in Scotland for people to live in, work in and visit.

“A key part of this is providing quality green spaces for residents to enjoy and we will continue to deliver in this area.