Policy in Scotland: Supporting Play

National Policy Frameworks


The Scottish Government Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision

Children’s play is crucial to Scotland’s well being; socially, economically and environmentally. Our people are our greatest resource and the early years of life set the pattern for children’s future development.

‘The experiences children have in early life – and the environments in which they have them – shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society’ (Harvard University, 2007).

Play is an essential part of a happy, healthy childhood and ‘when children play their brains do two things: they grow and the become organised and usable’ (Hughes, 2013). By investing in all our children and young people now we can strengthen their ability to achieve their full potential.

The Scottish Government Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Action Plan

The Action Plan supports Scotland’s first National Play Strategy by setting out what actions need to be taken, in the domains of home;nursery and school; community; and positive support for play to realise our vision for play.

Play is fundamental to a healthy, happy childhood and is essential to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of Scotland as a whole.

The Action Plan has been developed by the sector and there is a role for practioners, parents and carers, politicians, planners and policy makers in enabling and supporting children’s play.

The Scottish Government Strategic Guidance for Community Learning and Development

This guidance will help promote a more integrated approach in supporting active community participation in planning and delivery of services and to highlight that inter-disciplinary training and development should be offered that enables participants to share good practice and develop a fuller understanding of practice within CLD.

Scottish Government Scottish Planning Policy

Scottish Planning Policy is a statement of Scottish Government policy on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country.

Designing Streets: A Policy Statement for Scotland, Scottish Government

Designing Streets is the first policy statement in Scotland for street design and marks a change in the emphasis of guidance on street design towards place-making and away from a system focused upon the dominance of motor vehicles. It has been created to support the Scottish Government’s place-making agenda and is intended to sit alongside the 2001 planning policy document Designing Places, which sets out government aspirations for design and the role of the planning system in delivering these.

The Place Standard

The Place Standard tool provides a simple framework to structure conversations about place. It allows you to think about the physical elements of a place (e.g. its buildings, spaces, and transport links) as well as the social aspects (e.g. whether people feel they have a say in decision making).

The tool provides prompts for discussions, allowing you to consider all the elements of place in a methodical way. The tool pinpoints the assets of a place as well as areas where a place could improve.


International Rights

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or UNCRC, is the basis of all of Unicef’s work. It is the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced and is the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history.

Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No 17

United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities


Useful Resources

Getting it Right for Play, Play Scotland

Getting it Right for Play consists of four documents:

Getting it Right for Play Toolkit: A toolkit to assess and improve local play opportunities

All the Indicators and Tools are relevant to Local Authorities.  However, the Children’s Survey and the Quality Assessment Tool can also be used by community groups to help them assess play opportunities and spaces in their local communities.

Getting it Right for Play: The Power of Play: an evidence base

This document provides a comprehensive literature review of the benefits of Play to children and the wider community, and acts as a supporting document to the GIRFP Toolkit.

Getting it Right for Play: The Power of Play: an evidence base summary
Getting it Right for Play: Childrens Play in Scotland: the policy context 

This pdf document outlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to Play in policy and guidance.


Children’s Play and Leisure: Promoting a Balance Approach, Health & Safety Executive

Health and safety laws and regulations are sometimes presented as a reason why certain play and leisure activities undertaken by children and young people should be discouraged. Such decisions are often based on misunderstandings about what the law requires. The HSE has worked with the Play Safety Forum to produce a joint high-level statement that gives clear messages tackling these misunderstandings. HSE fully endorses the principles in this Statement.

This statement makes clear that:

  • Play is important for children’s well-being and development
  • When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits
  • Those providing play opportunities should focus on controlling the real risks, while securing or increasing the benefits – not on the paperwork
  • Accidents and mistakes happen during play – but fear of litigation and prosecution has been blown out of proportion


Managing Risk in Play Provision – pdf link


The Play Return: A review of the wider impact of play initiatives – pdf link


The Good School Playground Guide, Grounds for Learning – pdf link

A growing number of schools have recognised the potential of their grounds and are now providing outdoor spaces and experiences that support children’s learning and wellbeing. However, too many children are still growing up in dull and uninspiring playgrounds and missing out on these life-enhancing experiences.

The Scottish School Estate Strategy highlights a need for improved design and increased investment, with an ambition that designers make “the best use of school grounds and the outdoor spaces as an integral part of the learning environment ensuring that landscape design is at a par with building design.”

This guide has been written to help make that ambition a reality. It explores the links between school grounds and children’s health, wellbeing and learning and offers practical advice on how to develop the best school playgrounds.

It’s written for everyone who has an interest in how schools can provide the best school playground, that supports learning and a health-promoting environment for children and young people; whether you’re an architect designing a new school, a teacher tasked with improving your existing outdoor space or a parent looking for ways to provide practical help to your child’s school.

Some of the ideas in this guide might seem ambitious but many are simple, inexpensive and could be implemented almost immediately. There are also some suggestions in the Playground placemaking section for how you might make better use of your grounds as they currently are.

Whatever your budget or scale of ambition, our hope is that this guide will help you develop nurturing outdoor spaces and create memorable outdoor experiences that will help make your school the best place to grow up in.

Download (PDF)


Go Play Outcome and Evaluation Model, Inspiring Scotland – pdf link

Go Play was a programme run by IS on behalf of Scottish Government to grow the play sector in Scotland, offering more chances for children aged 5 to 13 years to participate in free play.

Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) and Inspiring Scotland worked with a group of funded play charities to explain in simple terms:

  • The problem or need that play and play charities are addressing
  • The outcomes of play organisations and play – and how they link to the National Performance Framework
  • How to evaluate the outcomes of play and play charities

As a result of this work the Go Play Outcome Evaluation Framework was published which included:

  • a practice based logic model which described the outcomes from the play sector
  • a desk review of literature to evidence the need the play sector is meeting
  • a section looking at evidencing the outcomes from play
  • a list of indicators and common methods
  • the 4 case studies of play organisations, with logic models and examples of how they evaluated their work

To download a copy for the Go Play Outcome and Evaluation Pack click here.


The Play Ranger Toolkit, Inspiring Scotland – pdf link

This Play Ranger Toolkit has been developed by, and using the experience and learning of, the Play Ranger charities supported by Go2Play – focused on growing play opportunities for children and harnessing the expertise of the sector.


Funders of Play, Inspiring Scotland

The guide contains eligibility, priority and contact details of organisations funding not-for-profit and charitable organisations in Scotland. It has been compiled for Inspiring Scotland’s Go2Play programme and therefore focusses on potential funders of play activities.


Play Strategy Publications

Action 6.3 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Play At Home report, March 2015


Action 7.1 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Learning About Play report, 2015


Action 8.1 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Policy Mapping infographic,  2015


Action 8.2 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Play Map Resource for Community Planning Partnerships, 2015


Action 9.6 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Playing with Quality and Equality, Inclusive Play Review, November 2015


Play Strategy for Scotland: Evidence, Outcomes and Logic Models, November 2015


Action 7.5 (Play Strategy for Scotland: Action Plan) Play Outside Hours! report, 2016