The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFU Scotland) has said its key concerns around the creation of any new national parks is that they “will not prioritise farming or food production”.
The union’s environmental resources policy manager, Sarah Cowie, wrote in her latest blog that the Scottish government made no mention of agriculture, food production or agri-tourism in its statement on the process of appointing a new park or parks.
Yesterday (Thursday, October 12), the Scottish government began its search for the country’s next national park – inviting communities and organisations to submit their proposals.
“The key concerns NFU Scotland has around the creation of any new national park is that it will not prioritise farming or food production, even though agriculture is likely to be the predominant land use in any new park,” Cowie said.
“Disappointingly, in the statement the Scottish government released to announce the process of appointing a new park or parks, there is no mention of agriculture, food production or agri-tourism despite these being key pillars and drivers of the rural economy.
“With justification, our members are concerned that the wider impacts of national parks on their businesses aren’t being taken into account.”
NFU Scotland said its members believe the same objectives for national parks can be achieved through other existing means, such as economic development agencies, regional land use partnerships and tourism bodies.
“For farming businesses to be profitable and sustainable, they have to invest and grow, and there are real concerns that national parks are just another layer of bureaucracy which won’t deliver for those living and working in the area,” Cowie said.
The union said its members have evidence of overcrowding, congestion, irresponsible access, livestock attacks by dogs and other antisocial behaviour within national parks.
“While NFU Scotland accepts the benefits of public access, it must be managed in a balanced way with support available for land managers where there are issues,” it said.
Cowie said the union believes a balance can be struck if all views are listened to and “not just those who are fully supportive of the proposals”.
“The key step the Scottish government must take to strike this balance is to ensure lessons are learned from the mistakes of the current two national parks,” she said.
“This means farming and food production must be prioritised, the local community has meaningful involvement in decision-making, and the national park authority is properly resourced.
“Only then can there be any chance of avoiding the negative impacts that we’ve outlined.”
The deadline for submissions for aspiring national parks is February 29, 2024.
The Scottish government said that, for the first time, nominations for a new park will be driven entirely by local communities and organisations.
To meet the criteria, groups must be able to demonstrate:
- Outstanding national importance due to natural or culture heritage;
- A distinctive character and coherent identity;
- How national park status would meet the specific needs of the area;
- Evidence of local support for the proposal.
Cairngorms national park authority board convener, Sandy Bremner, said: “This is a great opportunity for communities in Scotland to join the family of national parks to tackle some of the biggest challenges around nature loss, climate change and community development.
“National park status can bring enormous benefits to a region. It offers a heightened focus on the protection and enhancement of the area’s natural and cultural heritage.
“It can attract vital support to hard-pressed communities, and bring people together to achieve inspirational change.”