Marine National Parks

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green 2:00 pm, 2nd December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive whether tourism would be boosted by the establishment of statutory marine national parks. (S2O-4407)

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

Tourism in coastal and island areas, including watching marine and other forms of wildlife, is an important and growing component of Scotland's tourism sector. VisitScotland is already actively engaged with other organisations in promoting its further development. The Executive consulted recently on a strategic framework for Scotland's marine environment, and asked for views on whether there is a role for marine national parks in better managing the use of our seas. Responses to the consultation are being evaluated and the Executive's conclusions will be announced in due course.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green

I am sure that the minister agrees that Scotland's marine environment is the envy of the rest of the United Kingdom and much of the rest of the world. Scotland's marine environment is an asset to our tourism industry, as the minister said, but its management is a guddle of more than 80 pieces of legislation and 35 public bodies. It has taken half a century for Scotland to catch up with England and Wales on terrestrial national parks—even though one of our national parks does not have sensible boundaries and has no planning powers. Does the minister recognise the potential iconic value of establishing the UK's first marine national park? Will he persuade his Cabinet colleagues to speed up moves towards the establishment of such a park?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I will persuade my Cabinet colleagues—although they will need no persuasion—to pay full attention to the responses to the consultation, as the Scottish Executive always does. I fully accept the member's point about the value of marine wildlife tourism in Scotland, which generates more than £57 million per year, supports more than 2,600 jobs and is of tremendous importance. More than 90 per cent of visitors to Scotland mention our tremendous natural resources as a reason for visiting the country, so I accept that those resources are an extremely important part of tourism activity and I accept the importance of protecting our wonderful natural heritage.