National Park rejection was a “bolt from the blue”

Council recommendation disappoints campaigners.
Malcolm Dickson.Malcolm Dickson.
Malcolm Dickson.

Campaigners who have worked for seven years on a bid for the Scottish Borders to become a National Park say a local authority recommendation not to support the move came as a “bolt from the blue”.

The Borders is one of 10 areas nationally to have ‘expressed an interest’ to become Scotland’s third National Park – following on from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the Cairngorms.

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Scottish Government has set a deadline for submissions – February 29, 2024 – and stated that applicants must demonstrate “outstanding national importance due to natural or cultural heritage, a distinctive character and coherent identity, how National Park status would meet the specific needs of the area, and evidence of local support for the proposal.”

Aside from the Borders, the other region’s potentially going to throw their hats into the ring are Dumfries and Galloway, the Tay Forest, Lochaber, Skye and Raasay, Affric to Alladale, Glen Affric, the Lammermuirs, Largo Bay and Loch Awe.

But gaining political support for the creation of a National Park in the Scottish Borders is seen as a key objective.

And members of the Scottish Borders National Park campaign group have expressed their disappointment that SBC officers have recommended to elected members of the full council meeting today (Thursday, December 14), that the local authority does not support the bid.

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Borders National Park campaigner Malcolm Dickson said: “This was a bolt from the blue and very unexpected and a little disappointing but, fortunately for us, it’s not the end of the road as councillors may yet decide to still support the proposal for a Scottish Borders National Park.

“Even if they do not do that it is still not the end of the road because it’s the Scottish Government that decides, although in the past Scottish Government has said it would not support any proposal not supported by the relevant local authority, they no longer say that.”

Councillor Jenny Linehan, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for Environment and Transport, said: “In considering whether or not we should support a proposal for a National Park in the Scottish Borders we must take into account not just the benefits that this could deliver but also the challenges it could pose, not least the appropriate management of the area designated and the administration which would also be required, for example planning matters.

“The local campaign group has carried out a huge amount of work over many years, and those involved should be applauded for their efforts and the time they have dedicated to this cause.

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“Unfortunately, at this time, and following significant consideration of all relevant matters, the group’s proposal is not something which I believe we can support due to the potential risks and costs associated with it.

“Despite discussions about a single strategic proposal for a South of Scotland National Park taking place with various partners, this has not been able to be progressed. This is disappointing, as the case may have been stronger for that proposition than individual Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway national parks.

“I am sure we will have a lively debate at council next week, and despite the recommended approach, there is absolutely no diminution in our commitment to protecting our landscape, to increasing biodiversity, tackling climate change or maximising the economic benefits from our stunning area.”

There are currently 10 National Parks in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland.

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The SNP government is committed to create more parks in a partnership with the Green Party.

The benefits of a National Park are seen as supporting the economy and preserving the area’s landscape and cultural heritage in perpetuity.