On 20 August SCNP Trustees celebrated with our partners at the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS), as we welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to “designate at least one new National Park by the end of this session”, meaning by 2026. This is something we have wanted to see ever since Scotland’s first National Parks were designated in 2002-03, and for which we have actively campaigned for 11 years. We’d like to thank everyone who helped us to win this campaign, particularly Ramblers Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park and the Galloway National Park Association.
The announcement formed part of the Shared Policy Programme published by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party under their new co-operation agreement. The full statement reads as follows:
“We will designate at least one new National Park by the end of this session, provided relevant legal conditions can be met. This will support progressive development, address the climate emergency in the way we use our land, and improve public and community wellbeing. We will make funding available to support those ambitions.”
‘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 and cultural traditions. There are over 3,500 National Parks in the world, including for example 29 in Norway and 14 in New Zealand. Some are truly wild places; many, including in Scotland, are working landscapes, where some of their special qualities derive from the ways in which land managers have cared for the landscape over the centuries.
The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 allows great flexibility in National Park Authority functions and powers, which can be tailored to local circumstances. The Act requires Scottish National Parks to pursue the sustainable economic and social development of local communities alongside conservation and recreation. Scotland’s National Parks lead the way in tackling the climate emergency and nature crisis, promoting mental and physical health and well-being, boosting rural employment and celebrating our world-class landscapes. More National Parks will bring more of these benefits to more of rural Scotland.
SCNP and APRS intend to remain closely involved in what will no doubt be a lengthy process of assessment and consultation over the locations, boundaries, powers and functions of the new National Parks. We will continue to stress the need for an overall national strategy and to emphasise that the commitment is to “at least” one new National Park – in other words there could be several. Although we still consider that up to seven areas could meet the criteria for more National Parks, the proven levels of “local community demand” in the Borders and Galloway mean that these two places are clearly the front runners.