Gamekeepers slam process for creating new national park in Scotland

Gamekeepers have criticised the process for designating a new national park in Scotland, insisting it is "laden with policy jargon that ordinary people can't understand".

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said agricultural and private interests are underrepresented, while government bodies and environmental NGOs dominate.

Ministers have pledged to create at least one new national park by 2026. Galloway and the Borders are among the areas under consideration.

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The UK has 15 national parks but just two – Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and the Cairngorms – are located in Scotland.

SGA chairman Alex Hogg. Picture: SGA Media

The SGA said the creation of new parks would likely have the greatest impact on people working the land for a living.

Writing in response to a consultation, the body said: “The question must be raised, if the Scottish Government and NatureScot genuinely wish to encourage an inclusive and wide-reaching response, why is the consultation process so inhibiting? The lack of representation by those that earn their living from the land and ordinary citizens is apparent.

“The narrative that pervades the consultation document and associated conversations applies a technical discourse that is specialised, selective and marginalising. Loaded with policy speak and legal jargon, it poses considerable challenges to the layperson.”

The SGA provided a breakdown of bodies and organisations that it said had featured in the principal discussions. It said agriculture and private interests comprised only 7 per cent, whilst environmental NGOs accounted for 25 per cent and government agencies 60 per cent.

The association said: “By proposing to accelerate the transition in land use to address climate and nature emergencies, effectively, it is local people and families who are impacted most.

“Therefore, regarding the statutory aims of national parks, there needs to be greater emphasis on respecting traditional land management practice and retaining existing employment.

“In designating new national parks in Scotland, nature recovery is placed high on the agenda. However, Scotland’s people are important too. The rural environment is a working environment and the rural population is indispensable.”

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A power-sharing agreement between the SNP and the Greens, published last year, said they would “designate at least one new national park” by the end of this parliamentary session, “provided relevant legal conditions can be met”.

It added: “This will support progressive development, address the climate emergency in the way we use our land, and improve public and community wellbeing. We will make funding available to support these ambitions.”

The two parties also agreed to “increase the amount of funding available to improve visitor facilities, safety measures and access opportunities, including in existing regional parks”.

A NatureScot spokeswoman said: “NatureScot led the new national park stakeholder consultation on behalf of the Scottish Government. The consultation was inclusive and welcomed online contributions from a range of interested parties to help define how a new national park will protect and restore nature, tackle climate change and promote sustainable land management in Scotland.

"We are anticipating around 1,000 online consultation responses from the land and marine managers, local authorities, commerce, regional and national conservation, planning and recreation bodies as well as from individuals and communities from across Scotland. We also engaged with more than 100 representatives of these stakeholder groups at localised online events.

“We will report the evidence of this consultation to the Scottish Government by January 31, and look forward to continuing to support the ambition for a new national park for Scotland that will balance the needs of people, landscape and nature.”

Green minister Lorna Slater said there will be a further period of public consultation in 2023.

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