Sustainable tourism and managing visitors

We want National Parks to be for everyone in Scotland. As we have emerged from lockdowns during the pandemic National Parks have seen significant increases in people wishing to access the outdoors or reconnect with nature. However, this has led to challenges in managing lots of visitor in some areas. This includes increased transport congestion and emissions, a lessening of the experience for everyone and in some cases damage to the local environment in places that are important for nature. We think National Parks should aim to reduce emissions from traffic and and reverse the damage to the local environment. This could be done by promoting more sustainable access to the countryside and tourism.

Why the contribution is important

We want to make sure everyone can continue to enjoy National Parks without having a negative impact on the visitor experience and nature. We want to hear people's ideas about how this could be done.

by ScottishGovernment on May 10, 2022 at 11:40AM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.5
Based on: 20 votes


  • Posted by CarolSB May 13, 2022 at 16:08

    Parks are being loved to death. ASBOs are destroying the very thing Parks attempt to enhance, sustainability of the environment. I see US National parks are limiting visitor numbers and requiring reservations to help even out the visitor loads. Encouaging visitors to visit les utilized areas to help spread out the impact might help. Stonehenge now has a program where they change out maked pathways to allow the ground to recover from heavy footfall.
  • Posted by alisonkinross May 14, 2022 at 08:26

    There is a need to effectively manage parks for litter and dog & human fouling otherwise areas which were once beautiful become trashed . These problems are becoming more and more prevalent in this country and many people clear up voluntarily these days but prevention is better and any park management would have to try and manage the behaviour of those they attract to an area so that local residents aren't left trying to deal with the problem .
  • Posted by SJM14 May 19, 2022 at 13:10

    Visitor numbers and phasing needs to be managed as currently there are times where the negative impacts outweigh the positives especially for local communities and the environmental damage.
  • Posted by SueDalton May 21, 2022 at 12:21

    We need to think outside the box and create ways that visitors contribute to the enhancement of the natural areas they visit eg by planting trees or financially supporting those local organisations that are looking after nature in the area. It has to be a given that spending time in our beautiful places has an attached cost to help to protect the place.
  • Posted by JeremyHW May 21, 2022 at 21:57

    This is what a national park is all about. Management of a natural environment for sustainable use. Let's not confuse "national park" with "conservancy". This is a term not widely used in Scotland, but one that I have known elsewhere. A "conservancy" is an area kept absolutely pristine, perhaps recovered if previously harvested such as for timber or farming and returned back to its optimum perceived natural state. A national park can have such areas within them; areas with zero or limited access. But national parks are by their nature, natural areas managed for human enjoyment; areas as closely kept as purely natural as possible. There is still, unfortunately, compromise in the model.
  • Posted by JanetMoxley May 24, 2022 at 12:08

    Depends exactly what this entails. Agree that there is a need to reduce/manage pressure at honeypot sites, and more National Parks will help with this, but this should not involve blanket restrictions e.g widespread removal of thre Right of Responsible Access. Sustainable tourism must include excellent public transport too and within National Parks. That means funding it, not just wishing it will happen. This would benefit visitors and residents. Better funded ranger services would also educate visitors and encourage them to behave responsibly. Any planning restrictions on house building with National Parks need to be carefully designed to ensure that local people are not priced out by second homes and holiday cottages. This could include having planning controls on change of use to short term lets and/or considering social rented housing differently from commercial housing in the planning system.
  • Posted by SCNPandAPRS May 26, 2022 at 15:25

    Our existing National Parks have come under pressure from increases in visitor numbers as we have emerged from pandemic lockdowns, as have other areas of Scotland. In general, the expertise and resources of the National Park Authorities, even at current stretched resource levels, have ameliorated and managed resulting problems and conflicts more effectively than elsewhere, and National Parks have a continued leadership role in demonstrating this kind of visitor provision and management. Both better physical provision and ongoing management and improved mediation between recreational users and land managers is required and in both respects National Parks can and should set an example of how these can best be provided. The role of countryside ranger services is particularly important in this respect, as both National Park Authorities have recognised. However, Scottish Government policy sets the context in which National Parks operate and must address the problem that absorbing ever increasing volumes of motorised traffic is clearly impossible, whether in terms of damage to the natural environment, controlling climate emissions, promoting visitor enjoyment and even ongoing infrastructure maintenance costs. We agree that “National Parks should aim to reduce emissions from traffic”, but achieving this is partly outwith the powers of the National Park Authorities; for example the Scottish Government might need to ask Transport Scotland to revise its current plans for dualling the A9 and rebuilding the A82. National Parks should be exemplars for sustainable access to the countryside and a National Parks Service could help with this both within and beyond park boundaries. There is also an important positive role for National Parks in welcoming and encouraging responsible access and for increasing environmental awareness and understanding amongst visitors. The pandemic has led to a keener appreciation of the health and wellbeing benefits to people of being in nature and of access to green space for recreation, but there is a critical need for wider understanding of the vital ecosystem services provided by our landscape and biodiversity. This also extends to a wider appreciation of the land use changes that are required to reverse biodiversity loss and prevent the worst of the known range of climate change impacts occurring. Our comments under ‘A National Parks Service’ are also relevant to this issue.
  • Posted by malcolmrdickson May 28, 2022 at 13:27

    How to keep (almost) everybody in the countryside happy. The Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park has very recently published a paper under the above title which can be accessed (via The Challenge, parts one and two) on our website at This comprehensive piece of work by former journalist Marion Livingston draws on research from authoritative sources to examine how visitor management can mitigate the problems sometimes caused by a minority of visitors, with particular reference to National Parks, although not exclusively. It has been praised for bringing together a number of different and practical approaches into one readable and helpful publication.
  • Posted by GallowayHoopoe May 31, 2022 at 09:32

    National Parks are well equipped to manage recreation pressures. We should remember that these Parks are paid for and wanted by people so that they can enjoy them. People are not the enemy! Responsible use is important but very very many people are perfectly harmless walkers who’s impact is negligible. And some of these areas (notably Galloway) are vast and unlike Loch Lomond are really never going to have a problem with too many visitors. Ranger services and EXPANDED opportunities to access the hills and coast are what’s needed.
  • Posted by niallmacleod May 31, 2022 at 12:44

    Sue Dalton is right visitors should be asked to contribute more back in to the National Parks they visit like planting a tree for example or learning country side skills integral to good land management. "National park working holidays" not unlike the kind I have been involved in Snowdonia National park building paths up Snowdon. We have several school buildings belonging to Argyll and Bute in our area that are being mothballed due to lack of demand and the costs needing saved by the council here. These building would make excelent education centres for our future National Park If we can achieve the creation of the Loch Awe National Park! Niall MacLeod
  • Posted by MarkGibson June 01, 2022 at 15:33

    • Promote the area as a destination for responsible tourism • Actively manage hotspots through advice & Ranger Service • Retain the powers of making agreements and Bylaws as a last resort • Encourage business and communities to follow carbon neutral policies
  • Posted by Johnmuirtrust June 02, 2022 at 09:29

    How can we better manage visitor pressures in National Parks? • Consult and listen to local community views to understand pressures and inform visitor management solutions. • Invest more in National Park Ranger Services and interpretation. • Provide more facilities throughout the park to spread the load away from honeypots. These should be appropriately and sensitively sited in consultation with local communities and provide a wide range of options from campsites; campervan pitches; toilets; paths; bothies; huts; cabins as well as B&B and hotel accommodation. • Plan for and facilitate free or cheap low carbon transport connections. • Provide opportunities for sections of society that are not currently able to access our parks.
  • Posted by ihl June 03, 2022 at 23:29

    Many areas in Scotland are already seeing significant pressures from increasing tourism, particularly in recent years. This is partly from irresponsible visitors but also from sheer pressure of numbers. Look at the NC500 for example. National Park status will bring even more visitor pressures to the area unlucky enough to be chosen as the next one. I disagree with the comment above that National Parks are well equipped to deal with recreation pressures. Take a look at Loch Lomond and Cairngorm NP's to see what is happening. Or the r NP's south of the border. I also disagree with the comment above "And some of these areas (notably Galloway) are vast and unlike Loch Lomond are really never going to have a problem with too many visitors". Galloway might be a large area but most visitors don't stray more than a couple of hundred yards from the road or from the beach and that is where most of them will be. The beaches and coastal towns in Galloway are already too busy, as are the inland roads and adjacent areas.I don't believe a ranger service or any type of legislation will make much difference to the inevitable problems that will arise.
  • Posted by borbal June 05, 2022 at 13:39

    I went and had a look at the report on the Scottish Borders National Park website, "How to keep (almost) everybody in the countryside happy" and I have to say there is a lot of good stuff in there. The landowners who I talk to in the Borders are, I know, particularly concerned about the problems that an influx of tourists could have on the area. A great example of what could happen was when the Covid Lockdown was lifted and people flooded up from Newcastle and the North East just to enjoy the countryside. (They could not yet travel abroad). The result was a lot of irresponsible and thoughtless behaviour which caused a lot of problems for landowners. The report on the Scottish Borders National Park website recognises that National Park status will have the potential to create problems unless visitors are properly managed. That does not mean ASBOs being handed out in another NP as the OP highlighted - that is just an admission of failure in managing the visitors in the first place.
  • Posted by Lgreylag June 06, 2022 at 15:00

    Ranger Services and managing access are key roles for our National Parks. Promoting sustainable tourism by extending the season for visitors can increase footfall without adding significantly to pressures on the environment. As an example, Galloway has a coastline warmed by the Gulf Stream with the amazing spectacle of huge flocks of over-wintering birds, glorious sunsets and dark skies. Many new and existing enterprises in our rural areas struggle to operate and make money outside the main tourist season from April to the end of October. A National Park can ensure they remain ‘open for business’ benefiting visitors and communities alike.
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