With the recent Holyrood vote in favour of creating more National Parks in Scotland and the Glover Review of National Parks in England and Wales exposing a groundswell of support for new and bigger Parks there, you would think it would be full steam ahead for Galloway’s National Park plans.
After all, the Galloway National Park Association (GNPA) has met the challenges set by the Scottish Government in 2017: namely support from the community and local councils and evidence of economic benefits. So a recent letter from Mairi Gougeon (Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment) responding to the GNPA’s case for proceeding was disappointing.
The Minister recognised the area’s socio-economic needs but proposed a “wait and see” approach on the basis that investment in the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere might all be expected to deliver improvement and should be allowed to bed in.
Speaking after Trustees met to consider their response, Dame Barbara Kelly of GNPA commented
“We don’t believe Galloway should have to wait.
National Parks are not created overnight and we need to start the process now if we are to secure a brighter future for our rural communities and their young people.
Although SoSEA and the Borderlands Deal should help to improve our economic prospects we maintain that a National Park would add to their capacity to do so, particularly in the west of the region where rural deprivation is increasing and our many small to medium businesses continue to struggle.”
The GNPA supports the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, (whose Charter it signed in 2017), and believes its aims are consistent with and complement those of a National Park. However, the fact remains that the designation lacks the power of the National Park brand to draw in visitors and investment and the legal standing to enable it to develop and deliver a shared vision for Galloway’s future.*
Lisa Hooper, fellow Trustee added
“Scotland’s record in creating National Parks is a shameful one. Though widely acknowledged to have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world it has managed to designate only two Parks (the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs), and the last of those was created nearly 20 years ago.This leaves our cherished landscapes vulnerable to the piecemeal erosion of their natural and cultural heritage and reduces the ability of our communities to benefit from them economically.
Now recognised as one of the poorest parts of Scotland, our region faces uncertainties over Brexit and challenges to farming and land use as the world begins to address climate change.”
Trustee Sandra McDowall concluded
“We believe that a National Park would provide the forum to chart a new course for the area’s future. It would not be a faceless quango but a local body making local decisions. And importantly we believe it would be so successful that it would more than pay for itself. National Parks have a proven track record for growing rural communities; local politicians of all parties are fully behind this proposal; what are we waiting for?”
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*The proposed Park area includes parts of South and East Ayrshire.