Consultation is underway on whether Harris should become Scotland’s third national park. Residents voted last week to approve a feasibility study into the idea. The meeting was organised by the North Harris Trust and the main advantages in terms of economic development were outlined. It is not yet clear where the money for the feasibility study will come from, however Micheal Russell, Environment Minister for the Scottish Government has made positive noises about the prospect of Harris as a national park.
Harris has fantastic landscape, wildlife and cultural resources. It has the largest area of mountains in the UK outside the Scottish mainland and some amazing wild beaches. However the population has been in steep decline recently and there is a need to provide the economic conditions that can allow the community to grow. There will need to be a debate about what national park status can provide. Lessons from the two other national parks should be learnt so that development needs are properly balanced with the conservation of the very landscape that currently allows Harris to fit the criteria for becoming a national park.
The Cairngorms National Park is also in the news with an announcement that it is to be increased in size to include Blair Atholl, and parts of eastern and Highland Perthshire. The National Park along with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is to be reviewed by the Holyrood Government to ensure it is being run efficiently and effectively.