A National Park Strategy for Scotland

The John Muir Trust is supporting petition calling for a National Park Strategy for Scotland.

The John Muir Trust is supporting a petition from the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks to the Scottish Government asking the government to prepare and implement a strategy to designate more National Parks in Scotland.

APRS/SCNP believe that designating a special area as a National Park will generate a high profile for the chosen area. It would support its active management and protection, as well as encourage integrated planning and management by all public bodies, and invest additional national resources in helping both residents and visitors to enjoy the landscape whilst conserving it for future generations.

Although the rationale and remit for National Parks is not solely focused on protecting and enhancing natural heritage, the Trust is happy to support this call because the creation of new National Parks could help to protect more of Scotland’s wild land.  The passage of the petition through the Scottish Parliament will also provide an opportunity for further debate about landscape and wild land.  

The protection of Scotland’s wild land was the subject of a Trust petition submitted to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, helping to move forward government policy around wild land at that time. In 2014 the Scottish Government took a historic step forward with the adoption of the Wild Land Areas map and reference to the Wild Land Areas in the new Scottish planning policy.  However, that fell short of the Trust’s call for the statutory protection of wild land from large scale developments.  Granting National Park status to more of Scotland’s wild land could help to redress this balance.

In the background to their petition to the Scottish Parliament, APRS and SCNP highlight how Scotland’s landscapes rank amongst the best in the world, including wild mountains, pristine rivers and lochs, ancient forests, stunning coastline and islands, all rich in wildlife and history. With landscapes of such quality it would be reasonable to expect to see a much greater proportion of them recognised, celebrated and protected through National Park status.  Such an accolade is recognised internationally as the leading designation for places of the highest national importance for natural or cultural heritage, including landscape, wildlife and recreation.

The Trust has some concerns about the tensions between the duties of Scottish National Parks to promote sustainable development and protect the environment and also considers that there is scope for improvement in the Scottish Government’s operation of the two existing National Parks, so the creation of any future National Parks needs to consider how nature and landscapes could be further protected within the Parks.

The Trust looks forward to the Scottish Parliament’s consideration of this petition and would welcome the opportunity to submit evidence on the case for better protection for wild land.

“ ... given the intensity of current pressures, the time available for existing approaches to prove their efficacy must be regarded as limited … there is a history, in the field of environmental protection, of acting decisively only when the resources in question are under extreme threat.”  (SNH response to John Muir Trust petition PE1383 “Better protection for wild land” to the Scottish Parliament, February 2011)

UPDATE: On 26 April the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee discussed the petition. The Committee agreed to take the petition forward and the Trust was identified as one of the organisations which is to be asked to submit evidence in due course. 

Read the full text of the petition including John Muir Trust evidence.

Read our May 2015 submission to the Public Petitions Committee.