Scotland’s towns and cities are more green than grey

The State of Scotland’s Greenspace report, recently published by greenspace scotland shows that Scotland can rightly claim to be a nation of green towns and cities. Urban Scotland is more green than grey, with greenspace covering over half (54%) of the urban land area.

The total area of greenspace in urban Scotland is 1,593 square kilometres – that’s equivalent 22 Loch Lomonds or one-third of the area of the Cairngorms National Park. At a more human scale, that translates into a tennis court sized area of ‘publicly accessible’ greenspace per person.

The State of Scotland’s Greenspace report provides data on the amount and type of greenspace for all of urban Scotland. It also examines changes and trends in people’s use and attitude to greenspace, and looks at the resourcing of Council parks and open space services.

Key findings include:

  • Scotland’s towns and cities are more green than grey – 54% of the urban land area is greenspace
  • The total area of urban greenspace is 1,593 square kilometres – equivalent to 22 Loch Lomonds
  • This equates to 27 hectares of greenspace per 1000 people (excluding private gardens) – equivalent to a tennis court size of greenspace per person
  • 28% of greenspace is classified as private gardens and grounds, with amenity greenspace making up a further 37% - together these two types account for two-thirds of Scotland’s greenspace
  • Public parks and sports areas (which are the accessible public spaces most often used in daily life) account for 4% and 9% of greenspace respectively
  • Scots love their parks and greenspaces - with over 90% saying it is important to have greenspace in their local area
  • Urban greenspaces are popular outdoor destinations - with nearly half (43%) of urban Scots visiting their local greenspace once a week or more often (but frequency of use has fallen from a peak in 2009 when nearly two-thirds (63%) visited weekly)
  • Whilst most respondents (74%) were satisfied to some extent with the quality of their local greenspace, 40% agreed or agreed strongly that ‘the quality of my local greenspace has reduced in the past 5 years’ (up from 33% in 2011 – and rising to 50% for respondents from the most deprived areas)
  • The falls in greenspace quality and use, mirror falls in expenditure – with Council expenditure on parks and greenspace falling from £27,814 per 1000 people in 2010/11 to £21,794 in 2015/16


The full report can be downloaded here.

Designing public spaces for extreme rainfall: green and blue infrastructure in Copenhagen

Designing public spaces for rainfall management through SUDS systems is a familiar concept in Scotland.  Innovative retrofit schemes aimed at dealing with extreme weather events locally and at a city wide level are also beginning to emerge, for example in Glasgow. I was therefore interested to explore the work the City of Copenhagen are implementing as part of their “Cloudburst Management Plan

The Copenhagen strategy takes a long term, site by site, approach to adapting the city’s existing public realm to cope with climate change. I was keen to see whether the projects implemented to date lived up to their objectives of also improving the quality of place and engaging local communities in the design process.

Inspired by the talk at the 2016 CSGN Forum from project designer René Sommer Lindsay, one of the sites I visited was Tåsinge Plads in the densely populated Osterbro district of the city. Working closely with the community, René and his team have transformed an extensive area of car parking and mown grass into a diverse and characterful open space. Surface water from surrounding roofs and streets is gathered in a series of linked swales, underground storage tanks and detention basins.

The project, now two years on from completion, is bearing up well. It has already been tested by extreme downpours, and the series of designed planted and paved spaces has proved popular with local people. It clearly demonstrates how high capacity stormwater infrastructure can be integrated within public spaces in a manner which also creates an attractive and liveable place for people.

Similar and emerging work in Scotland has real potential to realise these objectives.


Frazer McNaughton- Landscape and Placemaking Adviser, Scottish Natural Heritage


A series of three linked detention basins allows for a large volume of surface water from surrounding roofs and streets to be controlled before either percolating into the ground water or slowly entering the sewer system.

The detention basins utilise a densely planted mix of native and non-native species. The planting in the basins helps achieve good levels of ground water percolation and provides seasonal diversity.

Robust and simple detailing allows the existing tarmac street to drain directly into vegetated swales and below ground water storage tanks

Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities

Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities: GREEN SURGE conference in Malmö, Sweden, 20-21st September 2017

Late September saw the gathering in Malmö, Sweden, of some 300 researchers, decision-makers, planners, and practitioners from 35 nationalities for the concluding two-day conference of the GREEN SURGE project on urban green infrastructure.  As a collaborative project between 24 partners in 11 countries (funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, FP7) GREEN SURGE has produced a wealth of useful evidence, tools, approaches and case studies for nature-based solutions to link green spaces, biodiversity, people and the green economy.

Stormwater runoff rain garden in the Augustenborg district of Malmö (Scot Mathieson)

A varied and inventive conference programme combined plenary presentations and focused workshops introducing the outputs of the project with technical visits to a range of sites around Malmö, widely cited as one of the world’s most sustainable, liveable cities. The visits showcased many examples of the city’s investment in sustainable urban regeneration. Examples included integrated green infrastructure, world-leading green roof research and extensive areas of liveable, walkable, resilient communities which were developed in areas of former industrial dereliction following the collapse of Malmö’s shipbuilding industry in the 1980s/90s.

A sizeable contingent of Scottish green infrastructure advocates, many from SGIF-supporting bodies (e.g. SEPA, SNH, ELGT, Forest Research, GCVGNP, Glasgow City Council) , travelled to the conference and, since our return, we have been considering how best to pool our various experiences and photos from the conference visits.

The extensive range of products from the GREEN SURGE project can be accessed here.  


Scot Mathieson

Principal Conservation Policy Officer, SEPA

Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2017

Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning

The ceremony for this years’ Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning, one of the Government’s most prestigious awards was held on Wednesday 8th November 2017 at The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. The SAQP awards celebrate achievements in planning, from the detail of processing to the bigger picture of creating places.

The four judges, including Simon Rennie Chief Executive of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, carefully considered all the applications. Having shortlisted 22 projects in the four categories of Partnership, Place, Plans and Process, they recognised 16 projects with awards for 2017.

Of green infrastructure interest, Falkirk Council’s Open Space Strategy won an award as the Judges felt the project was great to get the community interested in the value of their local greenspace areas, and the guidance was easy to read and understand.


The Overall Award went to Orkney Islands Council for its Team Stromness project. The judges considered this was an exemplary Urban Design Framework delivering on the ground. The Council’s passion to see Stromness modernise whilst maintaining its historical elegance was to be congratulated.

As well as being recognised with an Award in the Place category, Cairngorms National Park Authority received the People’s Choice in Planning Award for its Snow Roads Scenic Routes Initiative, which was developed to enhance visitors’ experience of the Scottish landscape by creating three newly designed viewpoints.

• A document containing all the winners can be found here
• More information and videos of all 16 winners can be seen here.  

All photos © Scottish Government.


Rooftop garden to help new school’s pupils blossom!

An exciting new secondary school in Grangemouth has been built with a biodiverse roof garden that can be used by pupils and teachers for outdoor learning. This green roof is over 300m2 in size and will provide many benefits for wildlife and for people in the school and the surrounding area.

Carrongrange High School has been purpose built for the almost 170 pupils that have a range of support requirements. An important feature of the roof garden is that it has been designed so that pupils and teachers will be able to easily access different natural features.

The roof has a wide paved footpath that allows access for pupils in wheelchairs, and unique, hand-carved benches that allow pupils to sit at either end of the garden. There are a range of plants including the garden plants like Chives, Thrift and Heathers, and also a wildflower mat with a wide range of native species that are already providing important food for bumblebees!

This is the second green roof to be installed in Grangemouth, both through the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative ‘Glorious Green Roof’ project, which has been managed by Buglife, and is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the EU LIFE programme. The first green roof was installed at a building owned by CalaChem in May 2016.

Not only will both green roofs act as stepping stones for wildlife, allowing the movement and mixing of individuals and species across Grangemouth, they will also improve cooling of the buildings in the summer and insulation in the winter, and increase the lifespan of the roof thus saving energy.