Britain’s largest national park is set to get even bigger.
Scottish Environment Minister Mike Russell told the Scottish Parliament that the Cairngorms park would be extended to include eastern and Highland Perthshire and Blair Atholl. A bill brought before the parliament last year by finance secretary John Swinney to promote the same changes was thrown out at the time by MSPs.
The statement came during a debate into the future of Scotland’s two national parks. MSPs have been looking at the running of both the Cairngorms and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national parks. There have been criticisms that their boards were too large and costly.
Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume had tabled an amendment questioning the need to ‘roll up’ the park authorities with Scottish Natural Heritage which, he said, would reduce their effectiveness and accountability.
The Ramblers’ Association in Scotland prepared a briefing for members with its vision for the future of the parks, a radical alternative with the two existing parks amalgamated and enlarged with the addition of the Ben Nevis and Glencoe areas into a ‘superpark’. The association also said the Government should consider the setting up of a brand new national park in the Western Isles, centred on Harris.
Director Dave Morris said: “Promoting sustainable economic development is a key aim of Scottish national parks, alongside the protection of wildlife and scenery.
“The land and people of the Western Isles fully deserve the opportunities that national-park designation can bring. The creation of a national park here will stimulate employment and give a great boost to the tourism industry of the Western Isles.
“We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to the further development of our world class national parks system.”
However, Mr Russell said there was no money available at present to fund the setting up of new park areas.
The head of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority backed the review of Scotland’s two parks. Convener, Mike Cantley, said: “We welcome the minister’s comments in Parliament today and we fully support his call for a strategic review of national parks.
“Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park celebrated its fifth birthday last year, so we too believe that this call is timely.
“We have a catalytic role to play in leading on the Scottish Government’s strategic objective, A Greener Scotland. We are already working on projects involving sustainable transport and renewable energy and have demonstrated where the national park authority can make a real difference.”
England and Wales set up national parks following the passing of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Despite exiled Scotsman John Muir being the founding father of the national parks movement, it was not until 2000 that his homeland adopted legislation to allow their creation.
The Loch Lomond park was set up in 2002, with the Cairngorms a year later.