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Five areas in the running to be Scotland's next National Park

By David Porter

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Five areas - in the Scottish Borders, Galloway, Lochaber, Loch Aweand Tay Forest- are in the running to be Scotland’s next National Park.

The Scottish Government committed to designating at least one new park by 2026, to join Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Loch Awe could become a National Park
Loch Awe could become a National Park

Each proposal will now be appraised by the Scottish Government against the published criteria and further consultation will be held once a preferred site is identified, expected to be in the summer.

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “The Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Parks have shown how valuable National Park status can be. Both Parks are recognised for their incredible landscapes, their outstanding natural and cultural heritage.

“National Park status has boosted their economies, supported local business and engaged communities to make the parks work for those who live and work in them. Once we have a site identified, we will engage again with the people in the area to look at determining things like park boundaries and balancing environmental protection with helping the communities and local enterprises thrive.

“I want to thank everyone who has worked so positively and proactively with their local communities to discuss and explore local priorities and the opportunities that National Park status can bring, including those who ultimately chose not to nominate their area. I look forward to meeting with those who have led the nominations to hear directly from each community what they would want to see from becoming a National Park.”

Kat Jones, Director of Action to Protect Rural Scotland (APRS), said:“Scotland has some of the richest and varied natural and cultural landscapes in the world and is, rightly, world famous for them. Of the 15 National Parks in the UK, Scotland has only two and we are pleased that, 20 years since the first Scottish National Park was designated, we will soon have another.

“National Parks in Scotland, in contrast to those in many other parts of the world, are tasked to deliver for people, nature and landscape. This recognition of how important people and livelihoods are for our landscapes, means National Parks are in a unique position to lead the way on the nature and climate crises while also supporting thriving, sustainable communities.”

John Thomson, Chair of Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP), said:

“The process of inviting nominations from communities has revealed widespread aspiration and interest in National Park status. It's a strong signal that this should be the start of a process for creating a suite of National Parks in Scotland, so that communities can build on the fruitful discussions they have had."

The Lochaber area is in the running to be a new National Park. Picture: Locaber National Park Group
The Lochaber area is in the running to be a new National Park. Picture: Locaber National Park Group

The John Muir Trust is also putting its weight behind the importance of another national park for Scotland.

Mike Daniels, Head of Policy, at the Trust, comments: “The Trust welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to designating a new National Park in Scotland in 2026.

“It’s clear that there is strong Scotland-wide public support for new national parks. A recent Survation opinion poll found that 63 per cent of people support a new national park with a coastal and marine dimension, with only 10 per cent opposed.

“While the Trust has no fixed view on the specific locations proposed, we do recognise that strong interest and support from the relevant local communities will be vital to the success of any new National Park.

“The central purpose of the John Muir Trust is to protect and restore wild places, working in harmony with local communities.

"To that end we would like to see the statutory purpose of National Parks updated to include a much stronger emphasis on nature recovery, to allow land the freedom to repair and restore."

However Scottish farmers have continued to voice their opposition to a new National Park.

NFU Scotland has been repeating its opposition to the creation of new parks 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.

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

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