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Our Response: Scottish Government's national parks consultation

The decision to designate a new national park is a golden opportunity to rethink our approach to restoring nature and supporting thriving communities.

Mam and boy overlook views in Scotland
Mum and boy overlook views in Scotland  © A Karnholz / Shutterstock

Scotland has just two national parks, created 20 years ago. Now the Scottish Government is on the verge of designating a third, and through a consultation invited public input on the role of national parks and how it should go about selecting a new one. 

This was an important moment for the public and interested organisations to encourage the Scottish Government to revisit legislation around national parks in Scotland and check that it’s fit for purpose. (The consultation closed for input on 30 November 2022.)

We are living through climate and nature breakdown. Every step we take has to be in the name of nature. Every piece of legislation passing through our parliament over the next few years should be contributing to halting the continued decline in Scotland’s wildlife and natural habitats. 

We want a wilder Scotland

Rewilding Britain is a member of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance. Our collective view is that we want to see nature prioritised within our parks, for the benefit of local communities as well as the nation. 

National parks should be a cornerstone of our approach to restoring nature and supporting thriving communities, as we’ve called for in our Wilder National Parks campaign. If we cannot achieve this within our parks, where can we?

As a member of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance we submitted a response to the consultation, and provided guidance to members of the public to enable them to feed in.

A guide for your response

This guide provides some suggested text to help you respond to section 1 (questions 1 – 18) of the consultation: the role of Scotland’s national parks. We feel this is where we can focus on prioritising nature.

Section 2 focuses on the selection process for national parks. We encourage you to also share your thoughts with the government on this if you are able to.

Question 1.

Do you support leadership of nature recovery and a just transition to net zero” becoming the overarching purpose of Scotland’s National Parks? If not, what else would you propose?

Nature recovery should be the priority of our national parks. We need a fresh approach to national parks in Scotland that is fit to meet the challenges facing us. The overarching purpose of Scotland’s national parks should be ‘Leadership of nature recovery and a just transition to a nature-based economy’.

Question 2.

Which of the proposed elements of leadership and action set out in the list above do you support? What others — if any — would you propose?

I agree with the proposed elements of leadership and action set out above.

Question 3.

What opportunities are there for National Parks to generate private investment in natural capital?

National parks are well placed to navigate private investment opportunities - but should do so with communities in mind. There should be community benefits from the millions of pounds in funding flowing through our landscapes beyond the restoration of nature. Where land generates value in the form of ecosystem services, money should also flow back into local communities. In the long term, this creates thriving communities whose lives are interwoven with nature. Rewilding and repeopling should go hand in hand, especially in our national parks.

Question 4.

What role should local communities play in the National Park and how should National Park authorities work with and for them to secure a just transition?

A just transition towards a nature-based economy should be a guiding principle of our national parks. If our national parks can rise to the challenge of enabling communities to flourish as nature is restored, they will be securing the future of the parks.

In order to achieve this vision, our national parks need to be welcoming places for people to live. In order for this to be true, our parks need affordable, secure, warm housing; jobs that provide a reliable living; thriving local services; good transport connections, including active travel and public transport. Communities should also have a real and lasting say in the evolution of the places around them - through the medium of co-design, rather than consultation.

All this has to take place alongside the large-scale restoration of nature and rewilding of our parks.

Question 5.

Do you support a vision and mission” for all of Scotland’s National Parks being clearly set out in a national statement? If not why not?

I support a vision and mission for all of Scotland’s national parks being clearly set out in a national statement. The creation of an overarching purpose for our national parks means this has to be set in context against the original aims contained in the National Parks Act. The creation of a vision and mission will also aid new parks as they develop organisational cultures and future plans.

Question 6.

If you favour a national statement for Scotland’s National Parks being developed, what else should it cover?

Scotland needs an overall statement covering all of its parks, including both national and regional parks. All land is precious and must play its part in tackling nature and climate breakdown. Regional parks are important landscapes too, albeit not the focus of this consultation. A national statement could cover all of Scotland’s parks, national and regional.

Question 7.

To what extent should new National Parks be about the future potential of an area for nature restoration as well as what’s currently in place?

Landscapes in Scotland are human landscapes, co-created over thousands of years of human usage. If the primary purpose of our national parks is nature restoration, all our national parks should be aiming to rewild the park areas. Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature is allowed to take care of itself. Rewilding aims to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to engineer and restore habitats. Effective rewilding encourages a balance between people and nature. This approach is perfectly suited to our national parks, where large areas still require significant regeneration.

Our national parks should therefore place nature restoration, not the protection of an existing aesthetic, at their heart.

Question 8.

Are any specific changes to the existing four Aims required? If so why, and what are they?

The overarching priority of our parks should be ‘Leadership of nature recovery and a just transition to a nature-based economy’. The delivery of the aims must not undermine nature recovery.

I therefore support rewording the current aims to better reflect this new purpose, as well as the vision and mission in the proposed national statement. The new aims could be:

  • restore the natural habitats and safeguard the cultural heritage of the area;

  • promote the sustainable and fair use of the natural resources of the area;

  • increase the accessibility of the area in order to promote understanding and enjoyment for all; and

  • promote the sustainable social and economic development of the area’s communities.

Question 9.

Which of these possible options, or mix of possible options, do you think would help strengthen the focus and contribution of National Parks, and why?

I support the rewording of the existing aims to better reflect other changes to the vision, mission and overarching purpose of our national parks. There should also be a clear caveat that the pursuit of those aims should not undermine nature recovery.

Question 10.

Are there other options that could be considered? If so, what are they?


Question 11.

Do you think there should be any changes to the wording in the Act to require public bodies to support delivery of National Park Plans? If so, what would you propose?

I support the strengthening of the effect of the duty on other public bodies. National park authorities need the support of other public bodies within the park area in order to solve the many challenges ahead of them.

Question 12.

Do you have any other suggestions for improving partnership working to support the implementation of the National Park Plan by all?


Question 13.

Could any of the existing powers and functions be used more effectively? If so, which ones and how?

Our national parks should feel empowered to utilise their full range of existing powers and functions. From protecting ancient woodland to fast-tracking ecosystem infrastructure to providing affordable housing - with nature and a just transition to a nature-based economy as overarching aims, our national park authorities should be confident in exercising their powers.

Question 14.

Are any of the existing powers or functions redundant or unnecessary? If so, which ones and why?


Question 15.

What, if any, changes to the powers and functions in these areas should be considered and why?

The priority of national parks should be to restore nature in a way that provides benefits for communities and the nation. Any powers and functions that support this priority should be considered. This could include:

  • Simplifying the ownership and management of public land within park boundaries by transferring land to the national park authorities

  • Incentivising land owners and managers within the park area to manage their land for nature

  • Enforcing minimum standards for land management

  • Managing land-based funding within park boundaries

  • Simplifying landscape designations within park boundaries

  • Streamlined rules around species reintroduction

  • For coastal and marine parks, banning of destructive practices within their waters

Question 16.

Are there any other areas where strengthened or new powers and functions will be needed by the National Park Authority? If so, what are they?


Question 17.

Should the powers and functions of National Park Authorities be decided on a Park by Park basis? Should any apply to all National Park Authorities? If so, which ones and why?

I believe all national parks should have the same range of powers and functions, and that all national parks should have nature as their priority.

Question 18.

Are there any changes you would want to see to the governance and management arrangements of all National Park Authorities?

I want to see more national parks in Scotland, restoring nature and championing nature-based economies. As the number of parks in Scotland grows, it may be necessary to establish an overarching national body to promote the national vision or mission and share best practice between Scottish parks.

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