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Badenoch and Strathspey farmers join the 'No more national parks' march

By Tom Ramage

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More than 100 protestors marched to Fort William today to insist that the country needed no more national parks – among them two pick-up truck loads and 20 hens from the strath.

'No to more national parks' demand protestors today
'No to more national parks' demand protestors today

"It was a great turnout today," said Kingussie's Ruaridh Ormiston, on behalf of the new forum created in Badenoch and Strathspey.

"There were well over 100 – including children, probably over 150.

"Some made it as far as the Cinema in Cameron Square for a rally at the end of the protest march.

"The seven people trying to drag the whole of Lochaber into a national park cannot proceed with their nomination, because the 'will of the people' is just not there.

Having their say: demonstrators today at Fort William
Having their say: demonstrators today at Fort William

"We all want them just to stop the nomination now."

Mr Ormiston, who runs Highland Horse Fun from his Croila Croft in Ruthven Road, told the Strathy: "There's lots of reasons for having this protest.

"Our national park in the Cairgorms is hard on crofters and it's hard on the farmers.

No thanks to more national parks
No thanks to more national parks

"One of the most worrying things is about Nature Scot's desire to reduce herbivores on the hills to two livestock units per kilometre. That would leave nothing at all and it would kill off hill farming and especially deer stalking. There won't be enough here for people to take up guests."

Mr Ormiston also reference the discrepancy in permitted developments between farmers in other areas – those in national parks were subject to crippling bureaucracy which imposed costs and time delays on local businesses.

"Why should we as farmers and crofters be so disadvantaged just because we're in a national park?"

Responding to the farmers' complaint over the reduction of herbivore numbers, a spokesperson for the Cairngorms National Park Authority told the Strathy: "The CNPA has a target that the average open red deer density in each deer management group are a maximum of five to eight per km2 by 2030.

"There is no specific target for other herbivores in the National Park Partnership Plan."

Regarding the vexed question of permitted development, the spokesperson clarified:

"The Scottish Parliament sets different types of permitted development through law and the Scottish Government provides guidance on those laws through Planning Circulars.

"The permitted development rights relating to agricultural building works last changed in 2021, when the permitted development rights for agricultural building was increased from 465 square metres to 1000 square metres – apart from in a National Scenic Area, a National Park, a World Heritage Site, a historic garden or designed landscape, the curtilage of a category A listed building, a site of archaeological interest or a conservation area.

"The size of agricultural buildings allowed under permitted development rights in national parks remains as it was before April 2021 at 465 square metres.

"All other permitted development rights relating to agricultural works are the same inside and outside national parks."

Chris Donald, NatureScot’s head of operations for Central Highland, said: “The claim that NatureScot’s aim is to ‘reduce herbivores on the hills to two livestock units per kilometre’ is wrong.

"We are not clear where this suggestion has come from but can reassure anyone with concerns that it is inaccurate. "NatureScot is working to implement the recommendations of the independent Deer Working Group, which included an upper acceptable limit of 10 red deer per square kilometre on open range in the Highlands.

"In accepting the recommendation, the Scottish Government made clear that, while a limit for red deer on open range in the Highlands is beneficial in measuring progress alongside other indicators such as deer impacts and damage, adopting a blanket density limit across Scotland would not be appropriate.

"We have always been clear that impacts from deer occur at varying densities depending on habitat, location and time of year.

"Impacts are therefore the primary criteria for NatureScot in deciding where to specifically target deer management efforts.

"We’ll continue to work as a key partner to implement the Cairngorm National Park Partnership Plan as well as national policy.”

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