CAMPAIGNERS and local politicians have renewed calls for Scotland’s third national park to be created in Galloway.
It comes after a planned cooperation deal between the SNP and the Greens pledged to designate at least one new national park within the next five years.
The Galloway National Park Association said its proposals “offer a brilliant, ready-made opportunity for Scotland to make a truly significant contribution to a greener world”.
It said it was “surprised” that a draft South of Scotland Regional Economic Strategy previously made no mention of a Galloway National Park.
Rob Lucas, chair of the GNPA, said: “Much of the draft strategy is excellent, but the omission of the national park is profoundly surprising as it would be one of the best and most affordable ways to achieve a ‘green’ economic future.
“Given that the creation of a third national park looks like being among the key pledges by Greens and SNP it is absolutely essential we ensure that it’s got to be Galloway.
“To miss out on such a huge opportunity for sustainable economic development and environmental protection would be an incredible loss for the region and its people.
“This is exactly the right moment for everyone involved in our economic future to come together and back plans for a national park.
“After all the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow is just round the corner which will focus the attention of the whole world on how to foster sustainable economic development.
“Galloway’s plans for a national park offer a brilliant ready-made opportunity for Scotland to make a truly significant contribution to a greener world.
“What’s more, it’s a proposal that our extensive consultation shows enjoys widespread support from the public, from business, from political parties, MSPs, MPs and local authorities – and which would be a straightforward way to help Scotland achieve its pledge to protect 30 per cent of land for nature by 2030.”
The UK boasts 15 national parks but just two – Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and the Cairngorms – are located north of the border.
The GNPA argues the region “possesses natural and cultural heritage resources of outstanding national importance, and a distinctive character and coherent identity”.
In a 2019 paper, it said national park status “would raise the profile of the area and contribute both directly and indirectly to its economic and social development and future prosperity”.
The suggested boundary would extend from Dumfries and Galloway into South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire, with all the local councils expressing support.
Emma Harper, SNP MSP for South Scotland, said: “If there is a new national park created, it’s got to be Galloway.
“A Galloway National Park would need to work for all, across our communities, from agriculture to tourism, and support jobs as well as working alongside the Biosphere.
“As part of the Scottish Government’s new trade and Ccooperation agreement with the Scottish Green Party, there is a commitment to create a new national park by the end of this parliamentary term.
“Again, I want it to be located here in Galloway to the benefit of our region. I will immediately write to the environment and rural affairs minister to ensure the case for a Galloway National Park is continued to be heard.
“A well-managed national park can add to our already fantastic resources such as the UNESCO Biosphere, 7Stanes and Galloway Forest Park.”
Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth MSP, who represents South Scotland, said: “In Dumfries and Galloway rarely do we have an economic opportunity jump out at us in the way national park status does and we should be grabbing it with both hands.
“The economic boost a Galloway National Park could bring was needed even before the pandemic.
“But now, that need is more important than ever before. National park status would promote investment, increase tourism and create the type of post-Covid recovery areas such as Galloway need.”
Finlay Carson, Tory MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, said: “Given the new commitment for a third national park in the Green/SNP deal, Galloway must surely be top of the list with the fantastic progress GNPA have made in garnering widespread grass roots support for the next Scottish national park to be here.”