New national park in Highlands needs a 'huge community effort'
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The Highlands has an opportunity to become “Scotland’s true gateway to nature” as an appeal has gone out to communities to nominate their area to be the country’s next national park.
Earlier this year the Scottish Government and NatureScot issued a call for expressions of interest following a commitment to designating at least one new national park by spring 2026.
The process is aimed at being community-led, with evidence of local support essential to any nomination.
It is understood that expressions of interest from Glen Affric, Skye and Raasay, and Lochaber have been submitted.
Previously, the Flow Country – which is in the process of applying for Unesco World Heritage Site status – has been mooted as a possible location for a national park, with its globally important blanket bog habitat.
Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess said there were a number of exciting locations for the park within the region, but that any interest must be taken forward by local people.
The Green MSP said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for the Highlands and Islands to stake further claim to being Scotland’s true gateway to nature as well as securing all the economic and other benefits that would go with it.
“We are uniquely placed with numerous good potential locations from Affric to Alladale, to Lochaber, Skye and Raasay with their stunning landscapes and biodiversity.
“Ours is a region of distinctive character, with a real identity and sense of self, full of nature and cultural significance. In the Cairngorms we have the UK’s largest national park, and there is opportunity in uniting communities here.
“To see one find its place in the Highlands, we need a huge community effort and I would urge people to push for this as passionately as they can, to demonstrate real evidence of local support which is a key part of the process, and to work together on this.”
Highland Council is encouraging groups to discuss potential proposals with councillors and council officials.
Cllr Ken Gowans, chairman of the council’s economy and infrastructure committee, said: “I advise all groups wishing to secure council support for a national park nomination within the Highland Council boundary to get in touch with our environment team as soon as possible.”
The local authority said that all nominations would be subject to a simplified assessment process and would be considered by local area members to ensure that the nomination does not raise any significant concerns or issues for the council, before it offered support to any bid.
Where formal support is to be offered, this will be agreed at a relevant committee or with approval of the chairman of the economy and infrastructure committee and the council’s chief executive.
Groups seeking council support for their bid are asked to submit nominations to the council’s environment team by January 31, 2024 by emailing email@example.com
Full details on the draft appraisal framework that outlines the criteria to be used to assess nominations and how to register can be found by visiting https://www.gov.scot/news/next-steps-for-national-parks-in-scotland
The deadline for nominations to the Scottish Government is February 29, 2024, with further guidance available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/new-national-parks-nominations-guidance-appraisal-framework