Green Health in Scotland

This months blog comes from Dr Rebecca Wade. Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at Abertay University. Rebecca talks about a new initiative around a Natural Health Service in Scotland:

The environment we live and work in has a fundamental impact on our health and wellbeing.  Natural environments within our landscapes, including those that are managed, farmed and urban are important components of ‘healthy places’ with a role in promoting, maintaining and restoring good health, and preventing poor health.

Image 1. Get outdoors. It’s good for you! Greater use of the outdoors can contribute to improving public health, tackling health inequalities and improving wellbeing. Local Green Health Partnerships in Dundee, Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and Highland are developing green health services which support people to engage with the natural environment and be more active more often outdoors. (Image Credit: R. Wade 2019)

In Scotland we recognise that the natural environment and associated green infrastructure is an important and undervalued asset for improving societal wellbeing and public health. Improvements in public health can be gained by increasing physical activity through green exercise - outdoor recreation, volunteering, play and learning, gardening and active travel.  Wellbeing benefits can be gained through enhanced contact with good quality natural and green/blue spaces even without physical activity.

Our Natural Health Service (ONHS) action programme is a national initiative led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in partnership with a range of organisations from health, sport, transport, education and environment sectors. This programme is investigating how greater use of the outdoors can contribute to improving public health and tackling health inequalities. The project concept has been brewing for a while, it dates back to 2007 when SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland and NHS Health Scotland formed a Green Exercise Partnership to promote better health and quality of life for Scotland’s people by encouraging more physical activity outdoors and more contact with nature.

In 2018, four Local Green Health Partnerships were established in Dundee, Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and Highland. These are the centre piece of the ONHS Action Programme. Each Partnership is co-ordinating cross-sectoral local action to promote nature as a resource for health and wellbeing. They are developing green health services which support people to engage with the natural environment and be more active more often outdoors in their communities. In Dundee the partnership is working with NHS Tayside to pilot ‘green prescriptions’. These are now offered by three GP surgeries in Dundee. This trial, launched in 2019, has been achieved by working across sectors, disciplines, and organisations. This ‘joined-up’ approach is essential if we want to gain multiple benefits for people and nature. By working together we can achieve benefits in relation to water management, biodiversity, pollution control, health, well-being, education and much more.

Ref: SNH. 2018. Our Natural Health Service in Scotland.


Energy conservation benefits of green roofs

May's blog come from Marili Sotiriou, a Masters student at the University of Edinburgh, who recently began a 4-month research project on the energy conservation benefits of green roofs:

As part of my MSc dissertation and with the help of my supervisors, Dr Jennifer Carfrae (SRUC) and Dr Lynette Robertson (MEARU, Glasgow School of Art; Nature Harmonics Research and Consultancy), I recently began a 4-month research project on the energy conservation benefits of green roofs, focusing on one of Edinburgh’s most prominent extensive green roofs at the Scottish Parliament. The overall objective is an assessment of the impact of the existing green roof on energy balance and building energy efficiency , and to assess potential gains of integrating solar panels.

Green roofs can provide us with many advantages over conventional ‘non-living’ roofs, including storm water retention, wildlife habitat, and energy conservation, however research in the Scottish context, which can be used to inform decision making and design, is sorely lacking. Further, an benefit which has only developed more recently is energy production through incorporating solar panels in combined ‘biosolar’ green roof systems. As photovoltaic (PV) panels shut down when temperatures get too high, the lower temperatures of green roofs compared to conventional roofs offer a preferable environment for solar energy production.  In addition, PV panels create microclimate conditions on the green roof (e.g. shade) which that can enhance biodiversity.

Aims and Objectives

Energy performance of the green roof will be determined from: (i) primary data collection (temperature and moisture content, insulation properties of the roof) using thermal camera, thermocouples, portable weather station, and (ii) secondary energy data provided by the Scottish Parliament (reducing the data to that particular part of the building that is under study).

A statistical analysis (multivariate) will be undertaken prior to determining the energy performance of the green roof, and finally, a simulation model will be set up, using EnergyPlus, a building energy simulation software that can calculate the energy consumption of a building (Hui and Chan, 2011).  A comparison of the energy performance of four different roof types can be established. The types of roofs under study using this model will be:

1)    Bare Roof

2)    Green Roof

3)    Roof with PV

4)    Integrated system

Scotland’s first raingarden officer appointed!

Scotland now has its first raingarden officer thanks to an innovative project from Central Scotland Green Network Trust and the Scottish Green Infrastructure Forum.

Europe’s largest greenspace initiative is hoping to follow successful projects in Melbourne, Philadelphia and Portland where raingardens have played an important role in dealing with surface water management, flood alleviation and greenspace creation. Funding has been secured from the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund from SNH, the Peoples Postcode Lottery, Glasgow City Council and CSGNT.

Landscape architect, Rachel Howlett has taken up the new position and will be focusing on creating 10,000 raingardens for Scotland as part of the organisation’s focus on creating an environment that will support Central Scotland to thrive in a changing climate.

Rachel explained: “Scotland is known as a ‘wet country’ and raingardens can play an important role by using, storing or temporarily holding  rain water. This presents a fantastic opportunity to help reduce the impact of flooding whilst also contributing to improved biodiversity, pollution control and better greenspaces, and we have set the goal of creating 10,000 raingardens across l Scotland. ”

A Glasgow pilot project is now in place as the first phase of the national campaign to raise awareness and will focus on community and public engagement, developing raingarden plans and designs, and disseminating and promoting guidance on creating small scale raingardens.

The initiative will work with the Southside Housing Association and the community in Queensland Court and Gardens in North Cardonald, to produce bespoke, costed, raingarden designs. Queensland Gardens are two tower blocks owned by Southside Housing Association which are surrounded by short, regularly mown grassland, however there is currently no nature-based surface water management taking place.

Rachel, explained the plans for the area; commenting, she said: “Queensland Gardens presents an ideal opportunity to be innovative by creating multifunctional quality greenspaces which deal with pollution, water and biodiversity deficits. It is also important to use this initiative to provide play and education opportunities which can also contribute to a sense of mental wellbeing, pride and community empowerment.”

The 10,000 raingardens initiative is also focusing on raising awareness of the benefits of raingardens to encourage individuals, businesses and communities to create the systems in their gardens, community spaces and buildings.


For further information please visit and tell us about any raingardens here.

As Europe’s largest greenspace initiative, CSGN is working to transform the central belt into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality.  Stretching from Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Dunbartonshire in the west, to Fife and Lothians in the east, it encompasses 19 local authorities across 10,000 sq km and has the potential to benefit 3.5 million people, equating to 70 per cent of Scotland’s population.

SUDSnet 2018

In this blog Vladimir Krivtsov from the University of Nottingham shares his very positive impressions of the 2018 SUDSnet conference, which he had the pleasure to attend at the end of August 2018. It took place at Coventry University, and was dedicated to the celebration of 15 years of SUDSnet’s existence.

SUDSnet is a UK-wide network for researchers, practitioners, agencies, developers and all those who are interested in Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

Both days of the conference started with very interesting key note talks, and there was plenty of time for networking over the refreshment breaks, as well as during the conference dinner.

There were talks and posters covering a range of topics, including; logistics of operating SuDS infrastructure in challenging environments; water quality and pollution control; multiple benefits of SuDS in relation to biodiversity and wildlife habitats; the choice of plants and planters for source control assets; hydrological monitoring of SuDS performance; permeable filters and filter media; Natural Flood Management and Rural SuDS; education and raising awareness of SuDS, and; stakeholder engagement (see the conference programme for further details). The geographical coverage was impressively widespread (e.g. Iraq, South Africa, EU), and there was even a special session devoted to the international case studies.

Retrofit SuDS

A number of presentations discussed issues related to SuDS retrofits. For example, the logistics of retrofitting SuDS were discussed in the talks related to international case studies, including the challenging conditions of refugee camps. At a more local level there were presentations dealing with installations of SuDS on Scottish farms and industrial estates. According to the current legislation, all new developments in Scotland must have SuDS. The developers appear to be aware of that, but often go for installation of a limited number of features (e.g. permeable pavements in industrial estates; permeable pavements and/or swales and basins in housing estates) largely ignoring other possibilities.

It was reported that the majority of industry representatives have difficulties with terminology. Furthermore, about 75% of companies do not know about the General Binding Rules regulating pollution prevention and SuDS installation. There is a lot of confusion with understanding SuDS purpose, benefits and technology. There are also issues with maintenance, hence considerable scope for improvement! Figures 1 and 2 suggest some examples of specific SuDS features suitable for retrofitting into public roads and industrial premises respectively. These examples are from a study conducted by the Heriot-Watt team at Houston Industrial Estate (West Lothian, Scotland), but the results are expected to be applicable elsewhere in Britain and further afield.

Figure 1. SuDS Retrofit options for roads at Houston Industrial Estate (West Lothian, Scotland).

Figure 2. SuDS Retrofit options for industrial premises at Houston Industrial Estate 


All in all, the conference turned out to be very relevant to the Urban Flood Resilence project. I think that SUDSnet appears to be a very vibrant and worthwhile network. Their conferences take place every 3 years, and I will certainly be trying my best to attend the next one (alas subject to funding). The presentations from the recent one are due to appear online (keep checking SUDSnet 2018 presentations) – all great stuff, cannot recommend it more. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did!

Vladimir Krivtsov wrote this blog with contributions from the Heriot-Watt team (Scott Arthur and Brian D’Arcy). Read more about their work on the Urban Flood Resilience project in WP1. Resilience and WP2. Resource. This blog was coped from the original article on the University of Nottinghams website, after being highlighted by SUDSnet attendee, Rebecca Wade from Abertay University. 


Tackling the barriers that keep nature off the cities

Novembers blog features the Urban GreenUP project, an EU Horizon 2020 with the objective of developing, trialing and replicating "Renaturing Urban Plans" in a number of European and non-European partner cities with the aim to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve air quality and water management, as well as to increase the sustainability of our cities through innovative nature-based solutions. This month, the project launched the results of their analysis on obstacles hampering the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions and possible related countermeasures:

Making our cities more sustainable and less harmful for the environment is one of humanity’s top priorities. Different approaches in this direction can be adopted. So far, renaturing urban plans by making use of Nature-Based solutions (NBS) are among the most effective ones. However, different kinds of barriers may stand in their way or slow them down. To top it all off, these hindrances are often times interlinked to one another which therefore makes it impossible for radical changes such as NBS to take place. To address this issue, the EU-funded URBAN GreenUP project has prepared a document identifying the main classes of barriers faced by its fellow cities. It also provides indicators on how to overcome such barriers, along with a collection of success and failure stories.

The document outlines different kinds of barriers. Some of these obstacles are purely technical and related to the NBS design and installation while others are of political, legislative, financial and social concerns, which may jeopardize altogether the implementation of these NBS.

In the realm of politics, one of the toughest barriers is the conflict and mismatch of priorities between local and the national governments. These include budget restrictions and cuts, as well as bureaucratic red tapes like land ownership.

Further complications arise by adding legislation into the picture. For one, legislative approval is required every time important changes such as NBS implementation is to take place in a city. This will become more troublesome if we also account for NBS’s unconventional designs that may violate the local legislative measures or protocols, and if these interventions should be implemented on private property.

Looking at it from a financial perspective, the biggest concern that the population may have is where the funding needed to implement NBS should come from. As a matter of fact, NBS most often fail to offer tangible cash return in the short term. This makes it less attractive for future investors.

Last but not the least, social barriers may arise as NBS impose a change of scenery and habits for the locals. For one, people have low public awareness as to how environmental protection can be beneficial to them. As a consequence, nature based interventions are considered among the citizens’ lowest priorities thus giving them a weak stance as to whether they should be supported.

The document is publicly available on the URBAN GreenUP website and is meant to provide guidelines and recommendations to cities and organisations implementing NBS.