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Farming union NFU Scotland challenges the creation of new National Parks

By David Porter

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After 110 people attend a meeting held in Skye, farming union NFU Scotland is to host national a webinar to inform members about the nomination process for National Parks.

The meeting in Skye showed the level of opposition to the proposals. Picture: NFU Scotland
The meeting in Skye showed the level of opposition to the proposals. Picture: NFU Scotland

With the nomination process to find a new National Park now open, NFU Scotland has repeated its opposition to the creation of new parks.

This is based on the experience of many farmers and crofters currently living and working in either the Cairngorms National Park or the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

This week, vice president Alasdair Macnab chaired a meeting on National Park proposals on Skye organised by the local NFU Scotland office and attended by 110 farmers, crofters and other local stakeholders.

All attendees indicated that they did not support the creation of a National Park in their area.

With farmers and crofters looking to get involved in the debate around new National Park creation at a local level, NFU Scotland is holding a member information webinar on Monday, February 5 at 6.30pm to assist them. Registration is online here.

In recent consultation with members, responses indicated that existing parks had failed to make a positive contribution to farming and crofting. Specifically, the majority of members felt that the creation of new parks would-

Increase bureaucracy and stifle growth, innovation and development.

Increase access-related issues.

Reduce housing availability for the local population.

Bring no additional benefits over and above existing policies and legislation.

Prioritise tourism and visitor access over local farming businesses to the detriment of the rural economy and the natural environment.

NFUS is calling for independent evidence of the value that existing parks bring to farmers, crofters and the local community and a similarly robust case why the National Park outcomes cannot be achieved by other existing funding programmes such as VisitScotland and regional enterprise bodies.

Mr Macnab said: “Farming and food production are highly important to Scotland’s rural economy and are the key drivers of the local community and landscape management that draws in other opportunities.

"This must be a major consideration when assessing nominations for new national parks.

“Meaningful involvement of the local community at each stage in the nomination process is key but that is not being delivered by many of the proposed bids.

"Feedback from members in existing National Parks is that there has not been enough focus on local views and where community involvement was present, it was tokenistic.

"That must not happen this time round.

"Wider community views must be considered and not just the nomination group views that are presented when bids go in for the creation of new parks.

"This is necessary to avoid polarised views within a community leading to groups feeling disenfranchised and that a National Park is imposed on them.

“In the concerning absence of any detail on how new National Parks are to be funded in the face of the current national fiscal pressures, and the potential that another layer of complexity and bureaucracy will be laid on farmers and crofters, we believe the means to achieve the same outcomes are already in place and the benefits should be shared across the whole country.

“The nomination process for new national parks is causing a lot of concern and confusion for members with regards to what it means for them and their area.

"If your area is proposing a new national park, I urge you to attend the online meeting on Monday 5 to hear about the process, what the NFUS position is and what NFUS is doing to support members and lobby on their behalf on this issue.”

Nominations for a new National Park will be judged based on a set criterion.

A consultation on these criteria was open between May and June 2023. NFU Scotland responded to the consultation following discussions with its Environment and Land Use and Legal and Technical Committees over the summer.

In November 2022, it conducted a national survey and online event on the Future of National Parks in Scotland.

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