Unfinished Business – More National Parks for Scotland

By John Mayhew, Project Manager, Scottish National Parks Strategy Project

The Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) and The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) are campaigning jointly for the Scottish Government to designate more National Parks. I’m the Project Manager for the joint campaign.

What are National Parks?

‘National Park’ is the leading internationally-recognised designation for places of the highest national importance for natural or cultural heritage – including landscape, wildlife, recreation, historic environment, cultural traditions. National Parks can be exemplars of sustainable rural development, helping to create jobs in remote rural areas alongside best-practice custodianship of natural assets.

Rural Recovery

The purposes of National Parks include healthy outdoor recreation and sustainable economic and social development – they have built up substantial expertise in these areas. They are therefore ideally placed to lead the recovery of rural Scotland following the coronavirus epidemic. New National Parks would provide exactly the type of stimulus needed to lead remote rural areas out of the current crisis towards future prosperity.

Why Should Scotland Have More National Parks?

Scotland’s landscapes rank amongst the best in the world in their richness, quality, diversity. We have wild mountains, pristine rivers and lochs, ancient forests, stunning coastline, and islands, all rich in wildlife and history. Our landscapes enhance our quality of life, our wellbeing, giving us inspiration and enjoyment. They provide great opportunities for outdoor recreation, including walking, cycling, canoeing, mountaineering. They are one of the main reasons why people visit Scotland, so they support important economic benefits through tourism, our largest industry.

With such impressive landscapes you might expect Scotland to have several National Parks – the main way in which nations across the world safeguard and manage fine landscapes. Yet, although the world has over 3,500 National Parks (including for example 60 in Canada, 29 in Norway and 14 in New Zealand), Scotland has only two, both quite recent: Cairngorms National Park (designated in 2003) also Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park (2002). Our keynote report Unfinished Business (2013) summarises the benefits National Parks bring, and proposes seven further National Parks (see map).

Scotland has some of the world’s finest scenery, so would benefit if more of its countryside were recognised with the National Park brand and accolade. Areas with significant natural beauty and habitats need protection, appropriate management, sympathetic access, and development, if they are to make their optimum contribution to our country. Sustainable tourism is vital to Scotland’s rural economy, The National Park brand attracts visitor spending, so more National Parks would boost the rural economy. National Parks are also good for rural development, as they are popular locations for small businesses based on the sustainable use of natural resources such as timber, fish, wildlife, or geology. More National Parks would boost Scotland’s national identity and global image by demonstrating positive action to protect and enhance the environment.

Political and Public Support

Our proposals are backed by the John Muir Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Mountaineering Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, the Scottish Wild Land Group, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Woodland Trust Scotland. A majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament represent the four out of five political parties in the Scottish Parliament which support more National Parks: the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, and Liberal Democrats; the only party which doesn’t is the Scottish National Party, which currently forms the Scottish Government.

We held a Parliamentary Reception and Exhibition in January 2017 at Holyrood to build on this support, prompting a full Parliamentary Debate on the subject in May 2017 in which all the opposition parties spoke up in favour of more National Parks. In a debate on 31 October 2019 to mark the centenary of the Forestry Act, MSPs agreed to an amendment recognising National Parks’ contribution to forestry, including: “the Parliament … believes that new national parks should be designated.”

Local Campaigns

Lively local community-led campaigns have sprung up, with our support, in two of the areas proposed in Unfinished Business.

The Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park has published a comprehensive professionally-researched feasibility study setting out the case for a National Park in their area. The responses to a recent Scottish Borders Council consultation over the main issues for its forthcoming Local Development Plan showed clear local support for this proposal.

The Galloway National Park Association prepared a comprehensive discussion paper and carried out extensive local consultation demonstrating widespread public support. This let to the formal submission of a detailed report to the Scottish Government calling for it to carry out a full official feasibility study into a National Park for Galloway.

Detailed Reports

We’ve published four more detailed topic reports on the issues which have cropped up most often since we published Unfinished Business.

Our Socio-economic Benefits report (2015) and our Tourism report (2016) argue that creating more National Parks could provide major economic boosts to several fragile rural areas in Scotland. They point to the success of rural areas in other countries, such as New Zealand and Norway, where National Parks have stemmed rural depopulation, providing many job opportunities. Our Governance Models report (2015) sets out why most of our proposed National Parks would cost less than the existing ones, as they would cover smaller areas requiring less complex management and staff structures. Also our Volunteering report (2016) explains how National Park Authorities and Ranger Services provide and fund many volunteering opportunities, which make such important local contributions, both through the work volunteers do and the money they spend in the area.

Please Support our Campaign

If you’d like to support our campaign for more National Parks in Scotland, please join SCNP or APRS or send a donation to help fund our campaign – thank you. Please follow our campaign on Facebook or Twitter.

SCNP promotes the protection, enhancement and enjoyment of National Parks, potential National Parks and other nationally-outstanding areas worthy of special protection. SCNP is a registered Scottish charity, No SC031008. www.scnp.org.uk

APRS promotes the care of all of Scotland’s rural landscapes. APRS is a registered Scottish charity, No SC016139.www.aprs.scot

Map of existing and proposed National Parks (click to enlarge)

Ruberslaw and Teviotdale from Peniel Heugh – photo coutesy of Frank Wielbo

River Bladnoch from Kirwaugh Moor – photo courtesy of John Thomson

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