A PLAN to guarantee all young people in Scotland have the right to benefit from the outdoors is being drawn up as a study showed that around two in five young people in Scotland were concerned about their mental health and wellbeing during lockdown.

Scottish adventurers Mollie Hughes and Marc Beaumont have joined politicians from across the political spectrum and a coalition of youth groups to launch a bid to ensure that from 2022, residential outdoor learning is embedded across the curriculum, and that all young people benefit in both primary and secondary school.

It comes as a shocking Lockdown Lowdown survey by Youthlink Scotland which ran between 28th September and 2nd November 2020 found that the the most common concerns were around the inability to see friends and family,  difficulties with keeping in contact and the negative impact of reduced socialising on mental health.

The study which received 6,043 responses found that 40% did not feel good about their physical health and wellbeing.

A UK-wide ONS survey has found that measures of happiness and life satisfaction are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic in March and anxiety scores are at their highest since April 2020, indicating that there are real struggles with mental health right now.

A vision document published by a coalition of Scottish residential outdoor centres and interested groups from the Scouts, Youthlink Scotland, and GirlGuiding Scotland to Ramblers Scotland, Children 1st and the Association of Headetachers and Deputies said the move is more important than ever as the impact of Covid-19 has hit young people hard.

It says: "Emerging from the devastating effects of the global pandemic, our children and young people need opportunities to break free from the constraints they have faced.

"Residential outdoor learning gives young people the chance to take part in challenge and adventure and by connecting meaningfully with nature, while also supporting pupil and school recovery.

The Herald:

"Residential outdoor education contributes to narrowing the attainment gap in our society. Our specialist outdoor educators create spaces for our children to build stronger relationships, develop resilience and re-imagine society that is stronger and fairer; one that truly values nature and our environment, and one that is sustainable to benefit future generations."

Scouts Scotland president Mollie Hughes, who in 2017 broke the world record for becoming the youngest woman to climb both sides of Mount Everest and in 2020 became the youngest woman to ski solo to the South Pole said the residential outdoor education "has never been more important for young people".

She said: "The chance to be away from home, experiencing the great outdoors with all of it's challenges and rewards is invaluable to their development. At a time where the lives of young people have been shaped by staying at home to protect their communities, it is crucial that we create future opportunities that give them a chance to spread their wings, foster confidence and resilience, build new friendships and develop an attachment and respect for nature. This is unachievable in any other environment.”

The vision paper has cross cross party support from Scottish Conservatives' MSP Liz Smith, Alison Johnstone of the Scottish Greens, former Scottish Labour Party leader Iain Gray, SNP MSP Fulton McGregor and Scottish Liberal Democraty MSP Liam McArthur.

Mr Gray, a former teacher, said: “Scottish Labour welcome this bold and ambitious plan for the next decade of outdoor residential education in Scotland and recognise just how vital learning in the outdoors is to providing young people with as wide a range of experiences as possible, strengthening their potential and increasing learning opportunities.

"The next generation of young people who have had their education and learning impacted on by Covid-19 related lockdowns, home schooling and remote learning need access to outdoor education opportunities more than ever. All the evidence shows that outdoor learning can help close the poverty related attainment gap and provides significant educational, health and wellbeing, social and personal development benefits.

"This vision sets out all the reasons why outdoor residential education matters, and why all levels of Government in Scotland need to provide the adequate support and resources the sector needs to deliver for the next generation of young people.”

It comes as Scotland’s national walking charity, Paths for All, launched a six-week Walking with Nature campaign to help people enjoy and appreciate the natural environment on their daily walks to ease anxieties and boost mental and physical wellbeing.

An online campaign hub will help people understand how to connect and enjoy nature whilst providing a variety of ideas, activities and information designed to motivate everyone to get outdoors.

Its action comes after a report published by Scottish Government agency NatureScot found an increased proportion of the population reported health and wellbeing benefits from time spent outdoors connecting with nature during lockdown.

Some 70% indicated their outdoor visits and engagement with nature between August - September helped them to de-stress, relax and unwind which is up from 63% in March to May.

Ian Findlay, chief officer at Paths for All said: “All too often when people go out walking they are still attached to their phone and forget to take in the surroundings that we are graced with in Scotland.

“We hope this campaign will help people unwind and begin to enjoy the small and simple things in life, like spotting a wild animal, hearing a new noise or just generally feeling relaxed when out in the fresh air.

“We believe by encouraging people to walk everyday they will experience many positive physical, social and mental health benefits and in turn we will move forward from this pandemic as a healthier, greener, safer and happier nation”.