Dozens of businesses say ‘Count Me In!’ on plans to boost economy and tourism while protecting fabulous countryside
Dozens of businesses of all kinds are signing up to the new Count Me In! drive to persuade the next Scottish Government to establish a National Park in Galloway.
Supporters gathered in Kirkcudbright to fire the starting gun for the initiative – part of which involves creating a group of Business Champions who agree that a National Park would:
- Be good for Galloway – and even better for business.
- Give Galloway an internationally recognised brand
- Bring more visitors and spending to the area
- Attract people to live and work Galloway
- Create brilliant marketing opportunities for local business
Nick Morris, owner of the Station House Cookery School, said: “Raising awareness around the unique offerings within the Food and Drink sector is essential for the future of South West Scotland.
“National Park status would increase footfall in the area bringing much needed support for all local businesses.”
Esther Tacke, who runs Galloway Cycling Holidays with her husband Warren Sanders, said: “We support the Galloway National Park as an important platform for sustainable green economic development – of which tourism is an integral part.”
Fiona Lee, who runs Kirkcudbright Art Tours, said: “Galloway has been a well-kept secret for a very long time, but now is the moment to share our history, our magnificent land and seascapes, our hospitality and rich culture with the world.
“For art lovers there is much to see and learn across the region that has proved a perfect home for countless artists, of all kinds, past and present.”
Allan Caldow, owner of J Hall & Sons Butchers, added: “When I’ve been to National Parks like the one in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs during high season they’ve been booming. There’s no reason why we couldn’t have the same benefits here. More tourists coming in would be great for all businesses in Galloway.”
Political support for the campaign, which is being run by the Galloway National Park Association (GNPA), has been growing rapidly ahead of May’s Scottish Parliament elections. All five constituency candidates for the Galloway and West Dumfries constituency expressed support for the idea during a BBC radio hustings.
The Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats have all declared their support for more National Parks in Scotland. Labour will also include a commitment to National Parks in its manifesto.
Support is growing rapidly from candidates in Dumfriesshire, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, and from those on the South of Scotland list.
Constituency MSP Finlay Carson (Conservative) and regional MSPs Colin Smyth (Labour) and Emma Harper (SNP) have all continued to be active in their support.
But Leith MSP Ben Macpherson, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, recently told a parliamentary debate that his government currently has no plans for further National Parks – even though we have just two in Scotland.
Rob Lucas, Chair of the GNPA, said: “Galloway has a very fragile economy and the Covid-19 pandemic has made things incredibly tough.
“A National Park in Galloway would bring huge benefits, allowing companies of all kinds to recover and to flourish by raising awareness of the area, bringing in businesses and offering superb marketing opportunities.
“Businesses in towns and villages across the region are depending on the next Scottish Government to recognise that this is the right move for the economy, the community and for our natural environment.”
Some 50 businesses, ranging from hotels to farms, across the region have already signed up – with Count Me In! stickers appearing in many of their windows.
Count Me In! is also attracting young people to support the GNPA campaign which seeks to establish a National Park covering large parts of Galloway and some of Ayrshire in order to:
- Conserve, protect and promote some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes and coastlines.
- Provide new jobs and sustainable business opportunities.
- Encourage community development
- Generate sustainable tourism
- Provide an abundance of new leisure and recreational opportunities.
Scotland currently lags behind much of the rest of the world, and other parts of the UK, in creating National Parks.
- In Wales the Labour Party, which currently runs the devolved government has made an election manifesto commitment to a new National Park covering the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.
- The Westminster Government has pledged £80 million for National Parks and protected landscapes as part of a “green recovery plan”.
- For more about Count Me In! see gallowaynationalpark.org.
- Anyone who supports GNPA aims can also join the association itself for an annual fee of just £5 see gallowaynationalpark.org/joinus
About the National Park proposal
A National Park for Galloway would promote and conserve some of Scotland’s most magnificent landscapes. It would attract visitors and allow a fragile rural economy to rebuild and thrive whilst helping Scotland tackle its biodiversity and climate change challenges.
Creating the park would go a long way to meeting the country’s commitment to protect at least 30% of its land for nature by 2030. The suggested boundaries would extend from Dumfries & Galloway into South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire. This area not only meets the criteria set out in the National Parks (Scotland) Act, but our research shows there is widespread enthusiasm for the idea.
Galloway National Park Association has had conversations with almost 2,000 people at over 100 meetings and events across the area. The resounding feedback is that Galloway wants a National Park.
- Our questionnaire showed that 84% of respondents are in favour of a National Park.
- We have the support of all the local councils (Dumfries & Galloway, South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire)
- The need for a National Park has increased since we started work – Galloway continues to fall further behind the rest of Scotland in economic terms.
- Galloway’s dispersed rural population presents additional challenges but the long-term security of being a National Park is seen by many communities and businesses as a catalyst for their development.
- COVID and Brexit are having a huge impact on the area: National Park status will help to redress this.
- The brief 2020 holiday season showed a clear need for more resources to help manage tourists and ensure a high-quality experience for visitors and locals alike.
- The national and international recognition that a National Park would bring to people to Galloway would help drive a green recovery across many sectors and attract people to live and work in the area.
About the Galloway National Park Association
Galloway National Park Association is a community-based group with trustees from across the region. We started work in 2017 and have over 750 members. Our objects are:
- To promote the protection, conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural assets of the area for public benefit.
- To promote, undertake and publish research into issues affecting conservation and enjoyment of the natural and cultural heritage of the area and to identify how this may be furthered through the designation of a National Park.
- To advance public education in and understanding of how a National Park could contribute to improving health and wellbeing through the enjoyment, understanding or enhancement of the area’s natural and cultural asset”.
Rob Lucas is the association’s Chair and Sandra McDowall the Vice Chair. Dame Barbara Kelly is the President. The association has been funded by membership and donations, and contributions from Scottish Campaign for National Parks, Dumfries & Galloway Council, South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council.