Unfinished business – more National Parks for Scotland

Did you know there are only two National Parks in Scotland? John Mayhew from the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland talks about their campaign to get more.

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.

Why should Scotland have more National Parks?

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

Map of National Parks in Scotland proposed by SCNP and APRS

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) and 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).

Political and public support

Our proposals are backed by the John Muir Trust, Mountaineering Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, the Scottish Wild Land Group, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Woodland Trust Scotland. And 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’re holding a Parliamentary Reception this month (18 of Jan) at Holyrood to build on this support. And we’ve recently received some fantastic publicity on BBC Scotland’s Landward programme (a Scottish equivalent to Countryfile) and in several recent issues of the well-known Scots Magazine.

Local campaigns

People in several of our favoured areas are already running local campaigns in their areas.  For example in Galloway the local group is engaging actively with Dumfries and Galloway Council, which has already signaled its interest in exploring the possibility of a National Park and commissioned a report entitled A Galloway National Park? looking into the potential benefits and the forms that this might take. Meanwhile, the Borders National Park campaign has published a website promoting a National Park in the Scottish Borders, held a stakeholder event in Jedburgh attended by 150 people and secured a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to carry out a comprehensive feasibility study. There is also support on the Isle of Harris and the Isle of Mull.

Detailed reports

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

Wester Ross – not yet a National Park - image courtesy of Scottish Natural Heritage

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 and provide 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 and would require less complex management and staff structures. And 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, visit our website or donate now.

You can also follow our campaign at SCNP on Facebook and APRS on Twitter.