National Parks

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 9th December 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 12:00 pm, 9th December 2004

To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Executive's strategy in respect of national parks is achieving its aims. (S2F-1287)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We established Scotland's first national parks—Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park in 2002 and Cairngorms national park in 2003—to ensure that those nationally important areas would be properly protected, maintained and enhanced for all to enjoy. Both national park authorities have made good progress and they will publish their draft park plans, setting out their aims and vision for their park areas, in the course of next year.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The First Minister will be aware of the concerns that have been highlighted in The Herald about the noise and pollution that jet-skis cause on Loch Lomond. My colleague Sylvia Jackson and I have raised the matter with the national park authority and in the Parliament before. There is a genuine fear that when Lake Windermere bans jet-skis in March 2005, the problem will simply be transferred to Loch Lomond, which has even been advertised as an alternative location. The national park authority will not even start its consultation on possible byelaws until some six months later. Will the First Minister ensure that appropriate byelaws that seek to protect the natural beauty of Loch Lomond for the enjoyment of generations to come are introduced quickly?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I condemn any attempt to encourage people who use jet-skis and similar equipment on Lake Windermere to come to Loch Lomond or to depict the situation at Loch Lomond as being anything other than properly regulated.

Although the responsibility for those byelaws and for initiating the consultation on them lies with the park authority, I urge it to hold its consultation and bring forward its decisions as quickly as possible. If there is anything that the appropriate Government department in Scotland can do, we will certainly assist the park authority in achieving that aim.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

As the constituency member for the east side of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs part of the national park, I support the views of my colleague Jackie Baillie and share her concerns. However, does the First Minister agree that the east Loch Lomond visitor management group, which is a community-based group that works on dealing with antisocial behaviour and which includes representatives of all the stakeholders—the national park authority, Stirling Council, Central Scotland police and Forest Enterprise—is to be commended for its attempt to put in place a strategy for the 2005 season?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Working with stakeholders at local level is a vital part of the work of the park authority. It is vital for the future success not only of the park authority, but—more important—of the park itself that the local authorities and the many other agencies and private companies that operate around the shores of the loch are worked with.

We are talking about areas of national distinction in Scotland, but they are also areas of international importance. That is why the work of the national park authorities with their stakeholders must continue to progress.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

On the widespread vandalism on the shores of Loch Lomond, does the First Minister agree that the national park authority and wider Scotland could learn from New York, where when graffiti and litter were tackled, there were significant improvements in other indicators of the quality of life?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Absolutely. I recall all the SNP candidates in last year's election who wandered all over Scotland saying that our plans to tackle antisocial behaviour were trivial and ridiculous and did not deserve support. How wrong could they be? It is precisely because of those problems with graffiti and vandalism in different parts of Scotland, including the national parks, that we advocated tackling antisocial behaviour. That is why we introduced a bill in the Parliament and it is probably why Nicola Sturgeon, when she was the justice spokesperson, backed down from opposing the bill at the last minute and got the SNP to abstain. When the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 makes a difference in Scotland, people will remember who introduced it and who opposed it.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

It is argued that the current boundaries of the Cairngorms national park inhibit the making of an application for world heritage status for the Cairngorms. Does the Executive intend in the foreseeable future to reconsider the decision not to use the boundary that Scottish Natural Heritage proposed, which was arrived at after extensive consultation, to define the Cairngorms national park?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I think that it is too soon after the Parliament agreed to adopt the current arrangements for the national park in the Cairngorms to review the boundaries. However, a five-year review was built into the establishment of the Cairngorms park authority and I hope that that issue will be considered when the review takes place.