South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of being “short sighted” after they failed to back developing a national park for Galloway.
The local MSP tabled a recent question in Parliament asking what steps the Scottish Government has taken to create new national parks and whether it has considered establishing a national park in Galloway.
In response Roseanna Cunningham MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said the Government had no plans to designate new national parks in Scotland and instead planned to focus on the two existing national parks.
The snub by the Scottish Government comes despite a recent report commissioned by Dumfries and Galloway Council entitled ‘A National Park for Galloway?’ which argued that developing a third national park in Scotland, covering parts of Galloway and Ayrshire would complement Scotland’s two existing parks in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs. The report highlighted a range of potential benefits that could be brought to the area including better management and protection for some of the world’s best natural and cultural landscape in Galloway and a boost for tourism.
Increasing the number of national parks is supported by Scottish Labour but despite a commitment in their 2011 election manifesto, the SNP now seem to have dropped their backing. However, Mr Smyth has pledged to build a consensus of support in favour of the proposal and campaign to change the Scottish Government’s position.
South Scotland MSP and Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee Colin Smyth said, “Tourism is vital to the economy of Dumfries and Galloway. It supports 7000 jobs in our region and this year we broke the £300m barrier for tourist spend in the area in a single year. However, there is still huge potential to grow tourism in the region. We are only two hours from four million people in the central belt and north of England. That’s four million potential visitors on our doorstep. Our single biggest selling point is the outstanding natural beauty of the region. That’s why for me, it’s really a no brainer that the next logical step for the Galloway Forest park is to develop the area as a national park”.
“Scotland’s two existing national parks are further north, so it’s only right that the South of Scotland is considered next. It’s disappointing that the Scottish Government seem to have ditched their previous support for increasing the number of national parks in Scotland, which is very short sighted. However, the campaign isn’t going to stop. There are a number of parties in the Scottish Parliament, including Labour, who want to consider more national parks and the councils’ recent study into a Galloway National Park highlighted the real benefits that could be gained”.
“I’ll be looking to build a consensus of support across South Scotland and across political parties and none and then take what I believe is the strong case for a Galloway National Park back to the Scottish Government and ask them to reconsider their position”.