Affric National Park

There is considerable local interest in the concept of NP status for lovely Glen Affric and the surrounding Highland glens and that should be no surprise. Scenery, wildlife and open space are already there and are among the main reasons tourists and visitors have travelled to this area for decades. To set the scene though, the Affric area is greatly depopulated and currently generates little in the way of economic benefit to the local community and its people. Current initiatives towards rewilding are focused on planting trees as a kickstart for biodiversity and regeneration of local jobs. There is widespread suspicion and concern that this may end up as only another form of absentee landownership and control. Scottish Government has made great strides in the promotion and development of community owned and managed assets and the evidence shows that this is a successful model for land management. If NP status were awarded to this area, some significant benefits could accrue; Wildlife protection and enhancement - all Scottish iconic species are already here. There is space for reintroduction of other species. Housing - Holiday and second home ownership and lack of jobs has led to a critical lack of affordable housing for young local families. Business - eco-tourism, holiday accommodation and production of sustainable and organic foods could be greatly enhanced. Creeping industrialisation of remote places could be better managed under NP status. Compared to other potential areas, this area is more remote and has fewer access roads. This may sound like a disadvantage but could lead to more sensitive and finely tuned management of the supporting infrastructure. This will be important to ensuring local support as will community involvement and the empowerment which ensues. At present, this area is by far largely owned by absentee, non Scottish land owners. They do a great job of maintaining the land in the way it best serves their personal interests as summer sporting visitors. Scotland can do better and I and other local people can envision a different place, with fewer bare hills but more wildlife and more productive human activity. They are not mutually exclusive and successful models exist in other countries. This is also an opportunity to learn from the history of previous Scottish National Parks, most of which are closer to the main centres of population. Affric National Park could be the jewel in the crown for Scotland and a national treasure.

Why the contribution is important

Scotland needs more National Parks to address loss of habitat and species. Scotland needs to address land reform to better provide jobs and housing. We also need to address climate change through tree planting and other ways but done in a sensitive manner and ideally done with close community consultation to address legitimate concerns and fear of change.

by peterelliotsmith on June 06, 2022 at 09:58AM

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Comments

  • Posted by camusfearna June 06, 2022 at 10:28

    Interesting points. The challenge with designation as a national park is that it is not a panacea for addressing land ownership and land management issues, for example the two existing national parks own very little land (CNPA owns none). The regulation and grant-funding of woodland planting in Scotland, for example, is undertaken by Scottish Forestry (a Scottish Government agency), not the national park; similarly, the Scottish Ministers' forest estate (found in both national parks and in many other areas) is managed on their behalf by Forestry and land Scotland (another Scottish Government agency).
  • Posted by jimmcauley June 06, 2022 at 12:09

    Ownership of land can change. Bodies such as FLS as well as private landowners can be dispossessed in favour of communities given major land reform policies.
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