National Park

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:07 pm on 8th June 1999.

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Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour 5:07 pm, 8th June 1999

I am sorry to see that so many Scottish National party members have left, but not to worry. In February, the Government announced its intention of establishing Loch Lomond and the Trossachs as the first national park in Scotland. The designation recognises the world-class character of this natural resource and tourist attraction. It is an initiative that deserves and has received widespread support, and that could offer a model for developments elsewhere in Scotland.

There are, however, many issues still to be considered, and I would like to highlight three of them. First, the national park offers an opportunity to safeguard an area of great natural beauty and the potential sensitively to promote the social and economic development of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area. Together, those objectives provide a major opportunity for the achievement of sustainable development that creates jobs and also sustain communities in a way that conserves the outstanding landscape. It would, however, be foolish to underestimate the tensions between the two objectives, but those must be resolved.

Secondly, the precise boundaries of the national park for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs need to be decided. Such a decision must be made with as much local consultation as possible, but we must learn from the experience in England and Wales. It is important that boundaries can be reviewed and changed as local circumstances change.

Thirdly, I will turn directly to the issue of democratic accountability. As Scottish Natural Heritage has argued, we need to promote local community involvement in the identification, governance and management of national parks. The present interim committee, which encompasses the three council areas involved and includes individuals from the various interested groups will, with legislation, be replaced by a national park authority. Through the legislative process, Parliament must look further into the methods and rules for appointing members to a national park authority.

My local authority, Stirling Council, is keenly concerned with the development of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park. Through a phase of extensive consultation with key partners, the council has already drawn up a comprehensive and far-reaching rural strategy that recognises that the rural landscape around Stirling is a major resource. It is a key amenity for residents and it plays a significant role in the local and national economy. The Loch Lomond and Trossachs park initiative must be developed alongside and as part of the broader rural strategy for Stirling and the adjacent areas of Argyll and Bute and west Dunbartonshire.

Much remains to be done if the vision of the first national park for Scotland is to become a reality. The Parliament must view this development as a priority and must ensure that the necessary legislation is brought forward at an early opportunity.