The Galloway National Park Association has pledged to fight on after being turned down in its bid to create Scotland’s third national park.
Emma Harper MSP put a motion to the Scottish Parliament to support moves towards the creation of a new National Park in Galloway and received all party backing, to join Loch Lomond and Trossachs and the Cairngorm National Parks.
But Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, said Scottish Government has no intention to designate new National Parks.
But the Galloway National Park Association has pledged to redouble its campaign.
Rob Lucas, chair of the association, said: ‘The outcome of yesterday’s debate represents a missed opportunity not just for Galloway but the whole of Scotland, especially as Glasgow is soon to host the COP26 climate change conference.
‘It is disappointing that Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, failed to respond to the wishes and needs of our region and our country both to protect nature and to nurture a sustainable economy.
‘However, our campaign really begins now.
‘We were hugely encouraged by the strong support shown by MSPs of all parties to create Scotland’s third National Park in Galloway. We would especially thank Emma Harper for putting the motion and to Finlay Carson and Colin Smyth for the support they have given to our campaign over the past five years.
‘In the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections we will call on all candidates for the local constituency and South of Scotland seats to commit their support to creating a National Park in Galloway. We will also be pressing all parties to have a commitment in their manifesto to create more National Parks in Scotland and Galloway in particular.
‘Even with lockdown our membership continues to grow and support for a National Park at the heart of a sustainable future for Galloway increases by the day.’
But John Thomson, chairman of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks, hit out at the refusal.
He said: ‘The Scottish Government’s intransigent stance means that Scotland will carry on falling behind other countries in the UK and across the world.”
‘The Minister’s representation of new National Parks as a distraction from the Covid pandemic, the climate emergency and the nature crisis reveal him to be a prisoner of the same unimaginative and backward-looking outlook that has characterised Scottish Government thinking on this issue ever since we at SCNP and APRS issued our “Unfinished Business” report back in 2013.
‘Creating new National Parks isn’t a diversion from the problems that he rightly identifies, it’s part of the solution.”
‘What’s more, the tired old argument that more National Parks are unaffordable is just not tenable when Scotland can expect its share of the extra money allocated for nature protection in England, the extra tax revenue that National Parks could be expected to generate, and the savings to the health budget that would arise from increased outdoor recreation.
‘Why can’t the Scottish Government wake up and recognise the opportunities that National Parks represent for a 21st century Green Recovery?’
John Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, added: ‘We are expecting another busy year in Scotland’s countryside as Covid fears and continued restrictions boost the domestic holiday market.
‘This will benefit rural areas that raise their profile and present themselves as attractive places to visit – but only if the necessary measures are in place to welcome visitors and manage their impacts.
‘I’m talking here about ranger services, toilets, litter bins, car parks and paths, which National Parks are expert at providing – more National Parks would really help to support local communities in their efforts to avoid being overwhelmed.
‘These issues will no doubt be at the forefront of rural voters’ minds when the May election comes round.’
SCNP and APRS expressed their thanks to all MSPs who spoke in the debate, and in particular to Emma Harper for leading it.