The Parks and Greenspaces in Scotland COVID-19 survey provides a snapshot of the current position in terms of park usage, social distancing and grounds maintenance, as well as looking ahead to some of the post-lockdown recovery challenges.

The survey was conducted by greenspace scotland and responses were received from two-thirds of Scottish local authorities.

Read the survey report

Key findings:

Park usage and social distancing

  • No Scottish Councils have closed parks, but play areas, MUGAs, golf courses, tennis courts, outdoor gyms, toilets and some gardens have been closed
  • Most park users (over 90%) are following social distancing guidance in parks and greenspaces
  • There have been some problems with specific groups in some parks including young people, exercise groups and dog walkers
  • There has been a general increase in use of parks but there are significant variations across the country (and within local authority areas) with urban areas typically reporting increased levels of park usage and rural areas reporting reductions in use
  • Usage patterns have changed – many parks were previously busier at weekend and evenings, now there are higher visitor numbers on weekdays between 9am and 5pm

Grounds maintenance and staff

  • Some parks and greenspace staff in most Councils have been redeployed to other critical services, including bereavement services, waste, social care and community support
  • Grounds maintenance is not considered to be an essential / critical service and so has been massively reduced

Whilst politicians have recognised the important role of parks and stated many times that they need to be kept open to allow people to exercise, park management is not specified as an essential service and so most grounds maintenance has ceased.

  • Some Councils are starting to review grass cutting arrangements to ensure that social distancing can be maintained as grass starts to grow - discussions are ongoing with workforces and unions

Post-lockdown transition and recovery phase challenges

  • There are significant concerns about managing the post-lockdown transition and recovery phase – including re-establishing grass-cutting regimes, inability to cut long grass with current equipment, workforce and contractor availability, and tackling the backlog of grounds maintenance
  • Park managers are concerned about the adverse impact of further budget reductions on already stretched services, coupled with loss of income from events and concessions, and reductions in external funding

The importance of parks has been widely and publicly recognised during the Covid-19 crisis, but there are grave concerns that this will not be followed through with the budgets and investment required to ensure that our parks and greenspaces continue to provide a vital service for the health and wellbeing of our communities.

As one respondent commented:

“Hopefully on the positive side of things, the lockdown will have encouraged more people to access parks and greenspaces to walk and cycle, and so would like to think we will be managing increased use”

 Read the survey report