If we're serious, we need to learn from NPs outside Scotland, and take on board the link between outdoor recreation and wellness, including mental health.

As well as focussing on what contributors to this debate like about our two existing National Parks in Scotland, we need to learn from a much wider look beyond Scotland. There are many things to value in Scotland’s National Parks, but it is perhaps unnecessarily limiting to focus only on two national parks when there are 15 National Parks in the UK. This includes ten in England which cover 10% of the land area, three in Wales (covering 20% of the land area) plus our two in Scotland (7.3%), not to mention the six in Eire and 113,000 NPs in the rest of the world. Looking beyond Scotland to the UK and the rest of Europe, for instance, we can see that National Parks are as diverse as the landscapes and cultures in which they exist and can be appropriate in remote wild areas as well as in more managed or cultivated land nearer urban populations (eg England’s most recently designated National Park in the South Downs, and Snowdonia National Park which surrounds a Business Park, albeit the latter is not part of the designated NP.) It follows that what I value most about Scotland’s National Parks is that they recognise the need to preserve what is good about both our wild land and our farmed and forested land, and thus celebrate and maintain the links between landscape, history, culture, biodiversity and economic sustainability. The other factor that has only recently been recognised (a recognition accelerated by the pandemic) is that the wellbeing of human residents and visitors can be enhanced by a closer relationship with and access to rural outdoor spaces. National Parks are ideally placed to make this available to more and more people. For instance, a Scottish Borders National Park could be readily accessed by the residents of the Central Belt, the rest of Southern Scotland, all of North-East and North-West England and, because of the proximity of the Airports of Edinburgh, Newcastle and Carlisle, by visitors from much further afield. Furthermore, a Scottish Borders Park would appeal to people of all abilities and forms of transport. Horse-riding is already a bigger past-time in the Borders than in most parts of the UK, walking trails in the Borders could readily be improved and form a better network, and most upland areas can be negotiated on foot with no greater piece of equipment than some good outdoor shoes or boots. National Parks help to insure that at least all of the walking trails where it is possible to provide disabled access achieve that important facility.

Why the contribution is important

1. Our understanding of what National Parks can do should not be limited to two parks, where mistakes have admittedly been made so provide lessons for the future (especially on Visitor Management - see https://www.scottishbordersnationalpark.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/SBNP-Part-1-How-to-Keep-almost-Everyone-in-the-Countryside-Happy-optimised.pdf ). Study of NPs elsewhere in the UK and Europe would provide a sounder basis for decision-making and reveal the variety of Parks and what they can do. 2. Our understanding of the links between outdoor recreation and wellness, including mental health, has improved greatly since the original Scottish NP legislation, accelerated by experiences during the pandemic. This now needs to be taken into account.

by malcolmrdickson on May 22, 2022 at 03:07PM

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Comments

  • Posted by marzak May 24, 2022 at 13:14

    I agree that some form of 'big garden' [nationalpark?] should be reasonably close to most people. National parks should be accessible to everyone whatever their income, their social standing or their background as wellness/well-being applies to everyone. That in mind, facilities to attract and support a vast range of people require some good planning. Scotland's wish to repopulate the rural areas would be enhanced by more than one national park in those areas that are losing population.
  • Posted by Prentice May 25, 2022 at 14:06

    Agree with the above. National parks should be spread out and accessible to everyone across Scotland. A National Park in the South of Scotland would help this.
  • Posted by NicBullivant May 31, 2022 at 11:19

    Agree with looking wider than just Scotland. In 2001 when NP Act was passed, Scottish NPs were the only ones in the world that had sustainable development of the area's communities as one of the aims. Other countries may have caught up by now, but there is no doubt that is one of the main threads of the effort made by our two existing NPs and would have to be in any new NP. Looking at different types / scales of NPs is appropriate. Many of the 113,000 quoted are tiny (by our standards), many appear to do very little because they don't need to, and many were designated before the communities developed to their present extent, so were able to set a paradigm for development early, which will not be possible in our busy country.
  • Posted by stubizz June 05, 2022 at 10:41

    The nearest National Parks to us (in Galloway) are English and we certainly value England's positive attitude in creating and sustaining them. What happens in faraway Cairngorms and Loch Lomond/Trossachs has little or no impact on SW Scotland, and I doubt if they are ideal models. The main strength of any National Park is having its own authority comprising a majority of locally-elected members and a minimum of ScotGov and regional council appointees. We must obviously look further afield to learn best practice.
  • Posted by camusfearna June 06, 2022 at 10:56

    Important to remember that national park authorities in Scotland are Non-Departmental Public Bodies, are funded by the Scottish Government and are accountable to Scottish Ministers. Correctly, the national park model in Scotland includes a management board comprising a mix of locally directly elected members, members nominated by constituent local authorities (who are then formally appointed by Ministers), and members appointed by Scottish Ministers following a national recruitment process. And the Conveners of national parks in Scotland are elected by the board, unlike the Chairs of other NPPBs who are appointed by Ministers. I agree that Scotland’s National Parks 'celebrate and maintain the links between landscape, history, culture, biodiversity and economic sustainability' but national park designation is not a panacea and many if not all of the desired outcomes for areas such as the Borders can be achieved through existing mechanisms and approaches without the risk of unintended consequences from national park designation.
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