Use UNESCO sites as alternative to another National Park

Wester Ross has long been one of the potential areas for National Park designation but there has traditionally been a considerable level of opposition to the designation within local communities. However, in the past 20 years we have gained two UNESCO designations, Wester Ross Biosphere and NW Highlands Geopark. Both of these existing designations are founded on a community-led approach to management aimed at sustainable management of the natural resources, environment and landscape as well as celebrating the links between the people and place. This bottom-up approach to management and prioritisation at a strategic level could form a new model for sustainable community development and environmental protection at a landscape scale, and it need not cost as much as a full-blown National Park. The area involved would extend northwards from Barrisdale in the south to Loch Eriboll in the north and bounded to the east by the watershed (more-or-less).

Why the contribution is important

National Parks have a long history of opposition within parts of rural Scotland, as well as considerable support. Increasing pressure from development and especially tourism is certainly having an impact on communities and the environment. However, these areas are not 'parks' where people should think of them as places to go to play in, these are places where people live and work. For a n area to be a good place to visit, it first needs to be a good place to live. Thus community-led approaches to management should be given a chance to develop new models and more sustainable solutions at the local level within a landscape scale perspective. The value of the UNESCO designations, and their inclusive and community-led management approach could provide a ready mechanism for the Scottish Government to explore this alternative approach.

by IainTurnbull on May 17, 2022 at 03:52PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.1
Based on: 13 votes


  • Posted by SJM14 May 19, 2022 at 13:02

    Based on my experience of living within one I do not support the introduction of any new national parks based on the current model . Proposals such as this led by local communities should be explored in full.
  • Posted by Prentice May 20, 2022 at 10:55

    Scotland only has two National Parks. I think adding a third wouldn't hurt rather than a UNESCO site. A third National Park for example could be situated in the South of Scotland so that it is not as close to the other two parks.
  • Posted by Aspen May 27, 2022 at 21:43

    Agree, UNESCO Biospheres and Geoparks in Scotland are already seeking to achieve many of the same objectives as National Parks around conservation, sustainable development, research and learning they do it with community support but with limited often insecure funding. Any proposals for new National Parks should first seek to explore properly supporting existing international designations that reflect the world class a world class Scotland.
  • Posted by rwga June 05, 2022 at 21:37

    There are 4 geoparks in Scotland - including the NW Highlands geopark. The others are Shetland, Lochaber and Arran. None of these get government support yet they do more than the existing National Parks promoting geology and our fantastic landscape. The SG should consider supporting the existing geoparks or enhancing their status to National Park before considering other new areas
  • Posted by AndrewPym June 05, 2022 at 21:40

    It is not enough to rely on UNESCO Biosphere designations or on National Scenic Areas. Neither convey the message that the area designated as a National Park is of the highest quality of interest for national and international travelers. That is not to say that the area is unblemished: motorways, mineral workings and other large scale intrusive activities are to be found in many National Parks: e.g. slate mining in Snowdonia and the M6 through the Lake District. The designation allows people to know that there is much to see and enjoy in an open rural environment.
  • Posted by mariemack June 06, 2022 at 10:25

    UNESCO sites - not only protect, nurture, and support the natural and cultural environment but have the potential to support economic sustainability; an attractive alternative proposition to the traveller than a National Park as evidenced in the development of the new Scotlands's UNESCO trail - showcasing our world class offer. UNESCO Biosphere designations especially provide an excellent framework to deliver sustainable rural development and should be invested in and supported to reach their full potential to benefit communities, business and the environment.
  • Posted by Spike June 06, 2022 at 11:53

    UNESCO Biospheres are an excellent example of enhancing the natural environment whilst supporting the living, working environment for residents and visitors alike. Biospheres take a community lead approach to celebrate the natural landscape, helping to build more resilient places and deliver the Wellbeing Economy. National Parks take a top down approach to manage landscapes. Both have their place and need adequate government funding to work effectively. A new National Park should be an additional to existing designations and not a replacement, to allow more of our stunning landscapes to be protected across Scotland.
  • Posted by AllMsc June 06, 2022 at 15:45

    Scotland’s UNESCO Biospheres are highly valuable, inspirational assets distinguished as ‘learning places for sustainable development’. Biospheres encompass internationally important ecological designations and are places where people aspire to live, work and visit. The 'Proud Supporters' of our Biospheres are passionate advocates who champion different and unique approaches to carefully balance interactions between social and ecological systems, to support a wellbeing economy. Hence the emphasis is on collaborative innovation & learning to find ways of sustaining livelihoods and communities in harmony with the environment. There are some examples of where Biospheres underpin National Park designations. Careful consideration should be given to the 'actual' added value versus the 'perceived' added value, that a NP designation will provide over and above a Biosphere Designation. The successful region chosen for Scotland's next national park should be sought with the greatest of consideration to existing designations and also with the most thorough consultation across all stakeholders within that region to fully gauge levels of support and understand and mitigate against concerns and challenges that any new designation might bring. Whatever the outcome for Scotland's next national park, support and recognition for Scotland’s UNESCO designated areas must be valued in parity.
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