Our response to claims about National Parks

Action to Protect Rural Scotland (APRS) and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) has responded to a recent article written by Alasdair Macnab, NFU Scotland Vice-President – first published on February 28th. Our letter was published in The Herald on March 4th.

It’s an irony that Alasdair Macnab, NFU Scotland Vice-President, writes that the nomination process for new national parks is causing “confusion for members”, when his own article contains so many inaccuracies.

National parks in Scotland, in contrast to those in many other parts of the world, are tasked to deliver for people as well as nature and landscapes. This recognition of how important people and livelihoods are for our landscapes, means national parks are in a unique position to lead the way in tackling the nature and climate crises while also supporting thriving, sustainable communities and businesses.

There is, in contrast to what is being claimed, no additional layer of “red tape” in national parks: they are subject to the same planning system as everywhere else and enjoy the same system of agricultural support as everywhere else.

The only differences for national parks is that there is a presumption against large-scale wind farms, and small differences in permitted development rights – which concern the size of barn that farmers can build without planning permission.

Indeed, most people are surprised that there aren’t additional restrictions on activities in national parks to reflect their special status. Organisations such as ourselves may believe that they should have more powers to protect and enhance the special assets they are designated for, but this cannot be made as an argument against national parks.

Funding has also been raised as an issue, but the Government has said that it will core fund at least one new national park by 2026. The convening power of national parks levers in additional money, bringing together partners to lead on large bids that have brought money for large-scale conservation work, innovation in land management and tourism and business infrastructure.

And it is important to remember that inviting nominations from communities is just the first stage, and is additional to the statutory process. This requires that there will now be an in-depth consultation with communities, public bodies, businesses, land managers and other stakeholders. Other countries are looking with interest at what comes of this grass-roots-first approach. We think it has the potential to be very positive, especially if backed up with ongoing support for communities and a longer-term plan for further national parks and with other options such as regional parks and national scenic areas where these are more appropriate.

Scotland has some of the richest and most varied natural and cultural landscapes in the world and is, rightly, world famous for them. Of the 15 national parks in the UK, Scotland has only two. As organisations which have been campaigning for new national parks for Scotland since 2013, we hope that this conversation, started in communities, can lead to recognition and better care for more of Scotland’s special and unique landscapes.

Dr Kat Jones, Director, Action to Protect Rural Scotland;
John Thomson, Chair, Scottish Campaign for National Parks

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