Green-SNP deal could push new National Park plan up local agenda

stephen-talas-tMwLTvcyRck-unsplash

News of the Green-SNP deal, which includes a pledge to create at least one new National Park (NP) by 2026, has been welcomed by the team behind the Scottish Borders National Park (SBNP) proposal. 

While there is no guarantee a new NP will be designated in the Borders, the announcement reflects a major change of stance by the Scottish Government which as recently as February 2021 stated that it was not in favour of creating any new NPs.

The two charities that led the 11-year campaign for more NPs in Scotland, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) – which is behind Scotland’s new deposit-return scheme for bottles etc – believe that National Parks can lead the way in tackling the climate emergency and nature crisis, promoting mental and physical health and well-being, boosting rural employment and celebrating our world-class landscapes.

Yet despite having some of the world’s most stunning scenery and being steeped in history and tradition, Scotland still has just two National Parks (the UK has 15 in total).

Says SBNP campaign leader Professor Jane Bower: ‘We know that Scottish Ministers will not consider proposals for new National Parks unless they are supported by the relevant local authority. While our fellow campaigners in Galloway already have their council’s support, they require funding for a feasibility study. In contrast, the Scottish Borders team already has an independent feasibility study that makes a strong case for the Southern Borders gaining National Park status but we have yet to hear where Scottish Borders Council (SBC) stands on our proposal.

‘We believe that this national development – the Green-SNP deal – makes local decision-making more urgent than ever before.  The SBNP team has always sought and will continue to seek cross-party support; we are not aligned with any party. We believe it is crucial that we continue to refine – in the light of major events and to reflect constructive comment and feedback – the NP model we put forward for the Scottish Borders.

‘This will help to ensure key stakeholder groups have a real say in how the region’s countryside evolves ie on rural land use partnerships or through farmer-led initiatives such as those already operating in the Exmoor, South Downs, Northumberland, Brecon Beacons (Black Mountain) National Parks.’