World Heritage Status for the Cairngorms?

This is an exciting time for the Cairngorms. We now have the opportunity to give a unique area the protection it needs and to allow sensitive development, so that the many thousands who have enjoyed it's many splendours can continue to do so, in a way that is environmentally sustainable.

The legislation to establish national parks was passed two years ago, creating Scotland's first national park around the shores of Loch Lomond. Now the draft designation order for the Cairngorms is being considered. The Cairngorm proposals went out to consultation some time ago and the results of that consultation are now being considered by the Minister for Rural Development and by the Rural Development Committee. The order for creation of the Cairngorm National Park will be laid before Parliament probably late October this year.

As I am sure many of you have seen in the local press there is considerable controversy around two particular aspects of the current proposals. These are the proposed boundaries for the park and the planning arrangements. Some 463 responses were received in total, with large numbers with reservations around the current proposed boundaries and planning powers.

One of the benefits of the Scottish Parliament is that committees get around and about. So the Rural Development Committee will be meeting in Kingussie on the Friday, October 11 and will take evidence on the proposed Cairngorms National Park. They will also consider a petition on the proposed planning powers of the park. A formal method of considering petitions being another of the innovations introduced with the Scottish Parliament.

This meeting is open to the public and anyone wishing to attend should contact the Parliament's Visitor Centre 0131 348 5411.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to secure a member's debate proposing that the Cairngorms should be proposed for World Heritage Status in this the International Year of Mountains. One of the prerequisites for WHS candidacy is that planning powers must meet certain criteria. While the merits of the current proposals will continue to be debated, I do believe that any solution must meet the WHS criteria.

What is essential is that this special area is given the right kind of designation that respects both the social and environmental needs.

Elaine Thomson, MSP Aberdeen North

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