Borders national park plan has '˜major cost implications'

Plans to create a new national park in the Borders are unlikely to progress in the immediate future despite a feasibility study suggesting such a scheme could bring economic benefit to the region.

Smailholm Tower, a 16th century peel tower five miles west of Kelso, is one of the Borders best known landmarks. Picture: Stuart Cobley
Smailholm Tower, a 16th century peel tower five miles west of Kelso, is one of the Borders best known landmarks. Picture: Stuart Cobley

Campaigners believe that designating what would be Scotland’s third national park around an area covering Cheviot, Teviot and Liddesdale would encourage more tourists to explore the variety of moorlands and forests.

Research by Bryden Associates, commissioned by the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park (CSBNP), found the region meets the landscape, heritage and economic criteria required for park status.

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The report believes a Borders national park could emulate the success of the two existing parks in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

But the Scottish Government, which would make any ultimate decision on park designations, said the proposal had “major cost implications” as well as complex administrative challenges.

Campaigners have also yet to secure the support of the Scottish Borders Council, the local authority which could be required to part-fund a new park.

A core belief of the CSBNP is more can be done to grow tourism in the Borders and in turn boost economic performance in the south of Scotland. Around 4.5 million people live within a two-hour drive of the proposed park area, who could be enticed to explore the large number of scheduled monuments it contains.

“A compelling case can be made for a national park, shaped for the Southern Borders, delivering sustainable economic growth and based on long-term stewardship of the unique and treasured-rich historic culture and inspiring landscapes of the Borderlands,” the report said.

It added that a new park could help tackle economic challenges facing the region, including an ageing demographic, a shrinking working-age population and lower-than-average incomes.

National Park status makes areas better placed and branded by enlisting cultural and natural amenities and scenic backgrounds to help increase productivity and deliver sustainable outcomes, the report found.

“Parks tend to offer greater recreational provision and opportunities that help stimulate migration, draw in entrepreneurs and attract a skilled workforce to a range of faster growing service, knowledge and creative industries,” it said.

The formal process for establishing a new national park was established by the then Scottish Executive in 2000. If satisfied there is sufficient merit in a proposal, ministers may trigger a ten-stage process.

The national park at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs was designated in 2002, with the Cairngorms following a year later. Both are administered by their own nondepartmental public body. Beyond an unsuccessful bid for a national park in Harris in 2009, no new formal proposals have emerged.

A Scottish Government spokesman told The Scotsman: “We will continue our work to protect and enhance the natural beauty of the Borders, while promoting sustainable economic growth. The region is already home to a National Nature Reserve, several Sites of Special Scientific Interest and areas of conservation.

“There are no plans to designate new national parks in Scotland. The proposal has major cost implications and presents a number of complex administrative challenges for local and central government, as well as the communities the national parks would serve.”