New roles for all National Parks

The Act of Parliament which creates National Parks says that each Park must meet 4 aims: 1. Conserve and enhance nature and culture 2. Promote sustainable use of natural resources 3. Promote understanding and enjoyment 4. Promote sustainable economic and social development Beyond these aims the Act also allows for National Park Authorities (the body responsible for managing the Park) to have specific roles, depending on the needs of the area. There could be a change to this Act which sets out core roles or functions that all National Park Authorities should have. Ideas for new or enhanced roles and functions for National Park Authorities are welcome.

Why the contribution is important

National Parks have an important role to play for Scotland's future, and the people of Scotland should have a say in what that role could look like.

by ScottishGovernment on May 10, 2022 at 12:20PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 3.7
Based on: 11 votes


  • Posted by SJM14 May 19, 2022 at 13:06

    These aims are too broad - more detail is required , including measures and accountability
  • Posted by JeremyHW May 22, 2022 at 08:50

    I think that the objectives as already set are spot on. This deserves a reasonable rating score though because complexities and contradictions that arise will need innovative resolution. So while we should not be diluting the core objectives, there needs to be strategy to deal with such challenges. Mining within a national park for instance. Or commercial forestry. Besides the usual needs to accommodate human use such as residential and tourism aspects, there are components that are active commercially that cannot be fully removed, but can be mitigated.
  • Posted by IanDenton May 22, 2022 at 20:40

    The aim 'promote sustainable economic and social development' in a democratic system ought to be the responsibility of locally elected government not of a NP Board - which in the end is a quango not locally responsible. National Parks should confine themselves to aims 1, 2 and 3.
  • Posted by SCNPandAPRS May 26, 2022 at 14:40

    We are not convinced that changing the aims in the Act is a priority, as this would presumably require primary legislation. The lengthy timescale required for this could risk the commitment to designate more National Parks by the end of this Parliamentary session. The four aims set out in the current Act are fairly broad and flexible. There is much to be said for this, partly because more detailed prescription runs the risk of inadvertently excluding activity which subsequently proves vital and partly because it is a strength of the Scottish legislation that it allows for the role and powers of National Parks to be tailored to the needs and circumstances of individual areas. Such tailoring may be all the more necessary if, as is to be hoped, future National Parks contain marine as well as terrestrial elements. In the context of the nature and climate emergencies the main purpose of NPs is necessarily to lead on tackling problems relating to land use, climate change and biodiversity loss. The aims set out in the Act should be sufficient to cover these objectives but it would obviously be possible to highlight their responsibilities in combating the climate and nature emergencies. In doing so, however, two things would be crucial: (i) not to undermine their distinctive role as a means of identifying and protecting outstanding landscapes; and (ii) to recognise the continuing importance of winning community support by reconciling these environmental goals with legitimate socio-economic interests. Only in this way will National Parks really be able to blaze the trail to the environmentally sustainable living to which the whole country must aspire. Currently, although NPAs are obliged to further the statutory purposes set out in the Act, it is also entirely reasonable for Ministers to encourage them to promote other current national priorities which are relevant to their remit, so long as these are compatible with it. For example, although the word ‘climate’ does not appear in the Act, successive Ministers have made it quite clear that they wish to see NPs playing a leading role in climate mitigation and adaptation, and this seems entirely appropriate. For the reasons set out above, such Ministerial steers, reflecting contemporary circumstances and democratic mandates, are generally preferable to specific legislative direction, particularly as in many cases a satisfactory outcome will be dependent on co-ordinated action on the part of several public bodies, rather than that of the National Park Authority alone. From that perspective ensuring that all public authorities are fully committed and act effectively to realise the shared vision set out in the National Park Plan is arguably the key requirement. One way of achieving this might be to give them an explicit duty to assist in achieving National Park aims, including by respecting the primacy of the conservation goal. Just as important, but hard to prescribe in legislation, is scale of ambition. Given how nature-depleted much of Scotland has become, the aim should be Park Plans that have nature recovery, and not just the protection of existing interest, as their lodestar. Although National Parks are not the most appropriate mechanism for areas where the key task is the reversal of past degradation (for example through mining and industrial activity), this may well justify including within their boundaries areas where there is a pressing need for biodiversity restoration. Scotland’s National Land Use Strategy, which focuses on integrated and sustainable land use management, is now in its third iteration. On the ground, however, very little has been done to give effect to its admirable principles and aspirations. As has been recognized in the role that the existing National Parks have been given in leading the development of Land Use Partnerships, National Parks are obvious vehicles for blazing the trail. To be effective in doing so, however, it must be recognized from the outset that they should play a crucial role in devising and delivering future public land use support programmes. This need not necessarily mean administering such programmes but the measures themselves should reflect the objectives and priorities of the National Park Plan and Park staff should play a major role in promoting and facilitating their adoption on the ground. As part of such an approach, existing and Future NPAs should undertake direct conservation management of physical assets as exemplars and in particular have in-house management of a ranger service as the public face of the NPA. As things currently stand, it is hugely disappointing that in both existing National Parks significant infrastructure projects have progressed with little regard to their location within a National Park, resulting in negative landscape and biodiversity impacts and a strong and apparently well-founded perception that designation is given less regard by public bodies than it should be. The National Park Authorities need to be able to take a more proactive role in developing such proposals to pre-empt problems, rather than just reacting to proposed developments.
  • Posted by Nightjar12 May 29, 2022 at 16:23

    These 4 aims are good but rather vague and easily manipulated - nature and culture, for example, can conflict (is driven grouse shooting part of our 'culture'?)
  • Posted by alanbaileyspitaltowertourismltd May 30, 2022 at 17:48

    The 4 statutory roles do not mention the conservation of beautiful or endangered landscapes, of which Scotland has many, which are national assets in their own right and in many areas very important to the local economy. One cannot assume that "nature", which is mentioned in connections with conservation, includes landscapes specifically and so for the avoidance of doubt landscapes should be mentioned, and the first aim should read: 1. conserve and enhance nature, landscapes and culture
  • Posted by GallowayHoopoe May 31, 2022 at 09:12

    In my opinion biodiversity enhancement should be anew role for Scotland’s Parks. A wider dialogue is also needed about the place for renewable energy, forestry and other climate mitigation schemes in Scotland’s landscapes. Let’s get this out in the open!
  • Posted by camusfearna May 31, 2022 at 11:48

    To address the comment by Mr Denton, the Scottish national parks legislation specifically provides for local accountability through directly elected Board members and members nominated by the constituent local authorities. It is this element of local accountability, alongside an important element of national accountability as Scottish public bodies funded by the government, that would be lost by those proposing a single national park authority or an overarching Board overseeing local park authorities.
  • Posted by camusfearna May 31, 2022 at 11:55

    The four aims inn the legislation are appropriate for the level of detail required in legislation. The park authorities are required to prepare five-year national park plans (now titled partnership plans) as well as business plans which provide much more detail of implementing the statutory aims as well as contributing to the delivery of national outcomes locally. There is extensive consultation on the partnership plans and the park authorities also have other plans in place on matters such as biodiversity. The park authorities also are closely involved in the development planning arrangements, which is a key aspect of their ability to be effective and meaningful organisations locally.
  • Posted by camusfearna May 31, 2022 at 12:08

    National Park roles, within the broad terms of the aims in the founding legislation, are comprehensive and obviously their implementation evolves over time and in keeping with national priorities set by government and those identified locally through consultation. The current arrangements for short- and long-term planning by the parks appear to be sufficient to respond to key priorities as these evolve. I think it would be counter-productive to seek to add specific new roles or to alter the balance set out in the legislation. I do not agree with the SCNP/APRS comments that infrastructure projects have progressed 'with little regard to their location within a National Park'; the development planning role undertaken by the two national park authorities (LLTTNPA as a full planning authority and CNPA as a call-in authority to deal with more significant applications) is taken very seriously and is delivered fully in accordance with local development plans and Scottish Planning Policy. The comments by SCNP/APRS reveal that at least part of their motivation to establish new national parks is to change the inherent (and sometimes challenging) balance within Scotland's development planning arrangements and to prevent development. This could include preventing windfarms which are needed to deliver renewable energy as part of tackling climate change.
  • Posted by malcolmrdickson May 31, 2022 at 15:15

    I agree with alanbaileyspitaltowertourismltd . I would also add that biodiversity and human wellbeing have also come to the fore since the original statute was enacted and so promoting these should also be mentioned in any new guidance or statute. I don't believe designation of new parks should be delayed until a new statute is brought into being (since that would risk over-running the 2026 deadline), but guidance could be updated in the meantime.
  • Posted by PaulTarling June 06, 2022 at 09:37

    I Agree with all for of these criteria and also add Ability to develop or have infrastructure in place and living in Galloway I feel we can accommodate all of these criteria.
  • Posted by slochd June 06, 2022 at 12:58

    Generally agree that primary legislative change could serve to delay proposal around a third park and that would be undesirable. The aims and conditions do allow for the flexible approach different places require. However, the looseness also makes decisions harder to evidence or justify. However, key in the legislation is the duty on other public bodies is to 'have regard' to the National Park Partnership Plan. In effect any NP related weighting given by local government and other public bodies to their decision making process is minimal. LDPs do carry additional weight but even there securing conditions on development is challenging. They should be tasked with delivering a full weighting unless they can demonstrate why some kind of exemption should apply. There are, of course, many small decisions which of themselves are inconsequential but cumulatively can erode a NP's special qualities.
  • Posted by WoodlandTrustScotland June 06, 2022 at 16:53

    We support the SCNPandAPRS response to this idea.
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