New Scottish National Park Debated by MSPs

© Ronald Turnbull

A proposal to establish a Galloway National Park has been discussed in the Scottish Parliament after MSP Emma Harper secured a debate on the issue.

Mullwarchar and Loch Enoch from Redstone Rig  © Ronald Turnbull
Mullwarchar and Loch Enoch from Redstone Rig
© Ronald Turnbull

The idea, which has been floated for many years, enjoys cross-party support among Dumfries and Galloway MSPs, and is backed by campaign group the Galloway National Park Association (GNPA).

Supporters of a Galloway National Park say that official designation for the area would help promote local tourism and sustainable development, as well as helping to protect the environment and preserve the beauty of the landscape in this often-overlooked hilly corner of the country.

But the Scottish Government does not currently back designating any new areas to add to Scotland's two existing National Parks, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms, and points out that parts of Galloway are already home to designations such as the Galloway Forest Park, Dark Sky Park and UNESCO Biosphere. The chief objection to a new National Park appears to be on cost grounds.

"As a Scot it grieves me that Scotland, the birthplace of John Muir, father of National Parks, has just two" wrote Dame Barbara Kelly, GNPA President, today.

"We lag far behind England and Europe, despite an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 2000 which was meant to lead to many more.

"National Parks in Scotland, unlike in England, have a focus on sustainable community development. This is crucial and I believe that Galloway is an ideal location for a new national park, partly as a means to reverse economic decline.

"The government also faces a dilemma. In November we host COP26 which will spotlight our record on climate change. There is a target for every country to safeguard for nature at least 30% of its land. As of today, Scotland only has 22.7% compared with England's 26%. The two existing Scottish Parks account for only 7.6% of our land. England is pushing on with designating more parks and we risk falling further behind.

"Creating a National Park in Galloway would be an affordable, effective, sustainable way to close the gap and move towards the 30% goal in a way that promotes a green economy, conserves fabulous natural heritage and promotes wellbeing."

Galloway hills - no denying they're wild, but is this the first candidate for a third Scottish National Park?  © Dan Bailey
Galloway hills - no denying they're wild, but is this the first candidate for a third Scottish National Park?
© Dan Bailey

However, not everyone is convinced, and the local farming lobby opposes adding any more red tape. Colin Ferguson, of the National Farmers Union Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway, said he could not see the need for "another layer of bureaucracy", and suggested that measures were already in place to promote tourism and biodiversity.

We asked outdoor writer and regular UKHillwalking contributor Ronald Turnbull, who lives in the area, for his take on the idea:

"Speaking as a local resident, and one who loves the place, and author of the Galloway Hills guidebook, a load of nonsense is what I think" he told us.

"It's a grand wee group of hills that everyone should visit, a bit like the Rhinogs or the Mountains of Mourne or the Howgills. But Wester Ross or the Outer Hebrides it ain't. That's just my personal opinion, and please don't tell my publisher I said so..."

"Us writers get very exercised about designations (well some of us do) but the real people aren't that impressed, to judge by the hordes I haven't seen flocking to the M6 corridor since that was designated."

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15 Feb, 2021

As somebody who lives close to (though not within) the proposed National Park, I think it's a great idea. It's a beautiful area and like many parts of Scotland, indeed much of the UK, is under increasing threat of development, which is only likely to increase. I'm surprised at the comments by Ronald Turnbull, a writer I greatly admire. No, it's not Wester Ross or the Outer Hebrides, but frankly it's a heck of a lot more deserving of National Park designation than the South Downs or Norfolk Broads! Surely it is landscape quality rather than visitor numbers that should be the key factor in deciding whether to designate?

15 Feb, 2021

I was a very small part of the campaign during the 1990s for a Cairngorm NP. We were successful but when I look at what its done (now from a distance as I longer live there) I'm not sure it was really worthwhile. I still support the idea, not convinced by the implementation.

15 Feb, 2021

It’s a tricky one! The rate of development in Lomond and the Trossachs increased rapidly when it gained Park status. Quite the opposite of protectionism, it seemed the area was suddenly desperate to remodel itself on one of the busier, swankier parts of the Lake District.

The beauty of Galloway is that no one appreciates it. Few car parks, few tourist attractions, few visitors. Then again, if it doesn’t get protection it will soon be covered in windmills and forestry.

15 Feb, 2021

Depends if you have kids who you might like to live locally in the future, NP status will put the price of many existing properties up and kill development in even sensible places.

Any non tourist industry will find planning restrictions limit growth and employment prospects. Which is fine if the residents prefer low skilled, low wage, seasonal tourist work.

You may sense I'm skeptical.

15 Feb, 2021

I might be more enthusiastic about the idea if I saw the arrangements for existing NP’s being run in the interests of the environment and the users, rather than for moneyed interests. Neither Loch Lomond or Cairngorm administrations are exactly covering themselves in glory.

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