A new Scottish national park should be established on Skye to help the island cope with rising numbers of tourists, a senior Labour politician has said.
Catherine Stihler MEP made the suggestion in a letter to Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop after spending part of her summer holiday on the island.
Problems with overcrowding could be seen at the car park of the Old Man of Storr, while in Portree the queues of people desperately trying to find somewhere to eat were incredible.CATHERINE STIHLER MEP
She said that some of Skye’s key beauty spots were suffering from “significant overcrowding” and were in danger of being “ruined” due to the sheer number of visitors.
Concerns over the island’s tourist infrastructure were raised last year, with some businesses suggesting that visitors should have to pay a tourist tax to help the island cope.
In January the US broad-caster CNN also named the island in a list of 12 “destinations to avoid” in summer 2018, a decision that was criticised by local MSP Kate Forbes. Improvements to visitor facilities are in the process of being made at popular sites such as the Fairy Pools, Neist Point, Quiraing and the Storr in response to the increase in visitors.
But Ms Stihler said designating Skye as Scotland’s third national park – alongside the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs – would be a sensible next step.
“The designation… helps preserve the landscape and natural environment and could potentially be replicated on Skye, safeguarding its beauty for generations to come,” she wrote. “I visited the Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains to find the car park was full and there were up to 100 vehicles parked on the verge of a single-track road, including camper vans and mini-buses. This was an accident waiting to happen.
“I am also concerned that these special pools will be ruined because of the wear and tear inflicted on the paths close by.
“Similar problems with overcrowding could be seen at the car park of the Old Man of Storr, while in Portree the queues of people desperately trying to find somewhere to eat were incredible.”
Her intervention came as more than 100 tourism leaders on Skye signed a joint letter stressing that the island was “open for business”, amid fears that negative publicity may deter visitors.
It states that it has taken “many years” for local people to develop the island’s tourism industry, warning that this work could be undermined by alarmist media coverage.
“Tourism makes a critical contribution to the local economy, and indeed the wider Scottish economy, and indirectly enables people to live, work and raise a family on the island,” the letter said.
A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers had “no plans” to create a new national park on Skye due to the “major cost implications” and “administrative challenges” it would cause.