Scottish farmers and stakeholders sceptical over new plans for National Parks

A recent summit hosted by NFU Scotland is questioning the evidence on the benefits of national parks, with worries that they may negatively impact local farmers and communities.

Last month, opposition to the proposed creation of new national parks in Scotland brought some 110 farmers, crofters and other stakeholders to the Isle of Skye for a summit chaired by Alasdair Macnab, vice-president of NFU Scotland. The organisation is calling for independent evidence on the value that existing parks bring to the agricultural and local communities and asking more specifically why the ‘outcomes’ of a new national park cannot be achieved by extant funding organisations, such as VisitScotland.

Contenders for a new designation include Ben Nevis/Glen Coe/Black Mount, the Cheviots and Border Hills, Galloway, Glen Affric, Wester Ross and the Isle of Harris. Based on the experience of farmers and crofters living or working in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Parks, all those who attended the meeting are opposed to a new national park and a recent consultation with NFU Scotland members showed that the existence of current parks was felt to make no positive contribution to farming and crofting. Many feel that new parks will actually stifle growth and access, increase bureaucracy, reduce housing availability and ‘prioritise tourism and visitor access over local farming businesses to the detriment of the rural economy and the natural environment,’ says communications director Bob Carruth.

‘Farming and food production… are the key drivers of the local community and landscape management that draws in other opportunities. This must be a major consideration,’ explains Mr Macnab. ‘Feedback from members in existing national parks is that there has not been enough focus on local views and, where community involvement was present, it was tokenistic. That must not happen this time around.’

He continues: ‘In the concerning absence of any detail on how new national parks are to be funded in the face of the current national fiscal pressures, and the potential that another layer of complexity and bureaucracy will be laid on farmers and crofters, we believe the means to achieve the same outcomes are already in place and the benefits should be shared across the whole country.’