Scotland’s two national park authorities should be stripped of their status and controlled by Scottish Natural Heritage, according to a report out this week.
Loch Lomond: stormy times ahead if report is adopted
The Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs parks are ‘clunky and cumbersome’ and have turned into a ‘formal and bureaucratic muddle’. That is the view of Professor Neil Kay of the University of Strathclyde, who produced the report for Scottish environment minister Mike Russell.
Prof Kay points out that the park authorities each cost twice as much to run as the Lake District National Park and have more members on their boards than Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency or Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Scotland’s national parks emerged much later than England’s and Wales’s, being established after a 2000 act. The Cairngorm park is the largest in Britain, covering 1,467sq miles (3,800 sq km). Its 25 board members together earn £184,000 a year. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, through which passes the country’s most popular national trail, the West Highland Way, pays its members £200,000 per annum and is currently looking for a chief executive who will earn £73,000.
In addition to tourism, conservation and planning responsibilities, the national parks are charged with boosting the economic wellbeing of the areas they serve, a situation which many see as being in conflict with the core of their work.
Last year, the Cairngorm authority’s bid to enlarge its area into additional parts of Perthshire was turned down by the Scottish Government.
Prof Kay says the setup of the national park authorities no longer serves the aims of the parks or the public interest.
Any attempt to strip the boards of their powers is expected to be fiercely resisted. The Prof Kay’s report will be debated this coming week in the Scottish Parliament.