A UNESCO Global Geopark in the Southern Uplands of Scotland

Quoting directly from UNESCO, Global Geoparks are 'single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development’. A UNESCO Global Geopark is not a ‘geological’ park, but nevertheless sites are required to be founded on areas of internationally significant geology. The scientific importance of the rock record in the Southern Uplands is substantial, deriving from wide-ranging 18th and 19th C philosophical thinking and subsequent research of fundamental significance to the foundation and evolution geological science and the understanding and continuing development of primary geoscientific concepts and methods. Recent research ultimately leads to recognition of the Southern Uplands rock record, spanning 25 Ma, as a rare (on a world-scale) example of an important paradigm within modern plate tectonic theory, marking the conceptual shift in understanding of the earth’s crust from relatively static to dynamic. Parallel reinterpretation of well-preserved landscape features and deposits reveal several phases of glaciation over the last 500,000 years relevant to climate change research. Fundamentally the creation, development and management of a UNESCO Global Geopark is a community-led, ‘bottom-up’ process involving the active involvement and understanding of all parts of the local population. However, an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark must be a corporate identity having legal existence recognised under national legislation. It will have a comprehensive management plan covering its structure and activities, including governance, development, communication, protection, infrastructure, finance, and partnership issues. The extent and boundaries of a potential UNESCO Global Geopark in Southern Scotland is difficult to prejudge as it will be influenced by a number of factors including communities that will engage with and drive forward the designation process. Two areas are however particularly important: the core of the geological entity and historically significant locations lie in the central Southern Uplands in the hills between Moffat, Peebles and Selkirk; some of the best-exposed and most accessible geological locations as well as particular aspects of the intrusive rock history are found in the coastal and upland areas of south west Scotland. A Southern Uplands (Scotland) UNESCO Global Geopark would complement and benefit existing reserves, including the UNESCO Galloway and South Ayreshire Biosphere, other designated areas from SSSI to larger rewilding projects and long distance footpaths such as the Southern Upland Way. It would also dovetail with National Park proposals in the upland and coastal/marine areas of the Southern Uplands

Why the contribution is important

By raising awareness of the importance of geological heritage in a working landscape where science and local communities engage in a mutually beneficial way, a UNESCO Global Geopark gives local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthens their identification with the area. Although a conservation area, a Global Geopark is also a living territory in constant evolution, dialogue and reflection with full involvement of the local population without exclusion. Development is stimulated by community-led partnerships that promote appreciation of natural and cultural heritage and the creation of innovative local enterprises. Businesses may be primarily linked to ‘geotourism‘, defined as ‘tourism which sustains and enhances the identity of a territory taking into account its geology, environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents'. Geological tourism is one component but many others relate to other aspects of the natural environment (land and in coastal sites marine) including national parks, nature reserves, gardens, historical and archaeological sites and the built environment, cultural and sporting activities and locally sourced produce benefitting from the geopark branding. UNESCO Global Geoparks encourage and stimulate respectful tourism involving quality accommodation in small-capacity structures preferably with traditional architecture. Inhabitants are ambassadors of the geopark, trained as guides and to share with tourists knowledge, culture and traditions providing a unique experience to visitors.

by RobB on June 06, 2022 at 03:01PM

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Average rating: 4.6
Based on: 3 votes


  • Posted by rwga June 06, 2022 at 16:44

    The Southern Uplands is a great place to visit and the geology is fabulous with the remains of the lost Iapetus Ocean, and famous localities right across the region
  • Posted by Spike June 06, 2022 at 16:55

    already so much happening in the south of Scotland, this would be a great enhancement whilst supporting the existing designations.
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