Creating more National Parks could be a cost-effective way to provide a major economic boost to a number of fragile rural areas in Scotland, according to the latest joint research report published by two charities, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) and The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS).
They claim that designating more National Parks in areas such as southern Scotland (eg the Cheviots or Galloway) or north-west Scotland (eg Harris or Wester Ross) could generate millions of pounds in extra revenue annually from tourism and other rural industries. They point to the success of rural areas in other countries such as New Zealand and Norway, where National Parks have played a major role in stemming rural depopulation and providing a range of job opportunities.
Ross Anderson, Chairman of SCNP said: “This is the first in a series of research reports we plan to produce. It clearly demonstrates the many positive economic and social benefits that flow from the designation of National Parks in fragile rural areas, and builds on the Unfinished Business report we published a couple of years ago calling for the creation of more National Parks”.
“There is compelling evidence from other countries that National Parks stimulate much-needed economic activity to help sustain remoter rural areas. We urge the Scottish Government to sit up and take notice of our findings”.
John Mayhew, Director of APRS said: “National Parks have traditionally been recognised as a good way of managing nationally significant landscapes, but this report brings sharply into focus the ways in which National Park designation can help to transform the economies of fragile rural areas. It should act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government to think more proactively about the potential of National Parks in helping to tackle the issues facing many of Scotland’s more scenic and remote rural areas”.
The research report highlights the many social and economic benefits of National Park designation and includes overviews of the success of National Parks in boosting rural areas in Norway, New Zealand, Wales and Poland. This new report follows on from Unfinished Business, published previously by SCNP and APRS, which challenged the Scottish Government to bring forward a national strategy to deliver more National Parks in Scotland.
At present there are only two National Parks in Scotland: the Cairngorms National Park and the Loch Lomond &The Trossachs National Park, which were primarily set up to protect outstanding landscapes and to manage visitor pressures. Scotland remains near the bottom of the world league in terms of its number of National Parks, yet travel writers regularly champion Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage as of world-beating quality.
The Scottish Government has broken its 2011 manifesto pledge to “work with communities to explore the creation of new National Parks”. A local referendum overwhelmingly supported the creation of Scotland’s third National Park in Harris, but this was firmly rejected by Scottish Ministers. They have also consistently kicked the consideration of more National Parks into the long grass whenever the issue is raised.