National Parks in Scotland including The Cairngorms

North East Mountain Trust were invited to respond to the second stage of the Scottish Natural Heritage consultation on National Parks for Scotland. The General Council set up a Working Party to do this and Donald Thomas provides an overview of our response.

NEMT welcomed the opportunity to comment on the consultation paper and indicated our willingness to be involved in future face to face meetings representing the visiting recreational community, possibly in conjunction with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

The move to create the missing top-tier designation of land in Scotland is long overdue. This is no justification for rushing into structures that will not achieve the necessary protections, rather it gives Scotland the chance to learn from the experience of other countries and choose what is right for here. Much work has already been carried out in earlier consultations we indicated our support for the SWCL discussion paper Protecting Scotland's Finest Landscapes and the earlier CCS paper Mountain Areas of Scotland. The National Park consultation came in the midst of debate on Access and Land Use. These three issues will come before the new Scottish Parliament and will have to be taken together.

In its consultation paper, SNH had laid out their initial approach, asked some specific questions and asked for comments on the issue as a whole. We tackled some of the key issues but confined any specific response to the proposed Cairngorm National Park area. Other bodies are more qualified to comment on the other specific geographic area (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs).


Whilst sharing SNH's objectives of conservation of natural heritage, encouraging sustainable rural communities and providing for public enjoyment, NEMT felt that the stated equal importance of each was inappropriate. Above all National Park status should provide "Permanent protection of the finest wild land in Scotland" and "achieve the highest available World Heritage Designation for each area". Inevitably, this will at times conflict with SNH's other stated aims.

Rural revival may be a main source of funding for Scottish National Parks, so will have a prominent place in the proposals. However the provision of facilities to encourage investment and the promotion of areas to encourage tourism both detract from the wild nature of an area.

Visitors (in increasing numbers) will visit Scotland's wild areas, with or without National Park status. New powers accompanying the status should help in the management of the problems created by this popularity. We envisage differing levels of protection within each park (zoning), with certain activities being matched to the appropriate zone. Existing scientific designations (SSSI) would be retained.

The take-home message remains the same as our first submission to SNH - Meaningful powers and adequate funding are required for National Parks to work in Scotland.
Donald Thomas, 23 February 1999

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