Galloway - A New National Park for Scotland
By Vic Brown
A New National Park for Scotland
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." John Muir - Scottish Conservationist - 1838-1914 - the "Father of National Parks"
Visitors to Scotland will be very familiar with the two great National Park areas that came into being in the wake of John Muirs inspiration - the Loch Lomond and Trossachs, and the Cairngorms, The journey from concept to creation was a long one - over 70 years in Scotland. England moved a lot faster, the first ( Peak District NP) being established in 1951.
The exciting news is that plans are well established for a third Scottish National Park in Galloway, South of Dumfries..
Inspiration and Passion
The words above are as fresh and relevant today as they were when they were spoken over 150 years ago by John Muir - Scots writer, political campaigner, inventor, botanist, shepherd, geologist and mountaineer. Born in Dunbar in 1838, he emigrated to the USA at the age of 11 where he was instrumental in founding Americas best known National Park - Yellowstone in 1872.
John Muir also brought the term ' landscape conservation' into our vocabulary. Landscape conservation is about building a collective conversation and resulting action on how we wish to shape our relationship with the land we live on and that is vital to sustaining us and all future generations.
As we come to terms with the impact of the Covid-19 virus, his wise words take on a new urgency as we seek ways of healing and giving strength to our own bodies and minds through the enjoyment of outdoor recreation.
A New Scottish National Park for a New World
It is probably true to say that our lives will never be the same post Covid-19. Things that we took as normal are now becoming distant memories.
There is a new desire to enjoy outdoor spaces and to ensure that they can be conserved for future generations. Greta Thunberg has already shown what young voices can achieve, and in Galloway, the young have actively been involved and shown their commitment to this proposal. After all - this is a proposal for their future.. We must be sure to listen and respond to the calls of our young people.
Conservation of flora and fauna must also become the new imperative as we campaign for a greener economy, and the very future of planet earth.
There is also an urgent need to rebuild and strengthen our rural economies and sustain our rural communities. Leaving the EU will have profound and, as yet, little understood implications for all our upland areas. As Green Liberal Democrats we have a vital role to play in ensuring that Government fully recognises and responds positively to these challenges.
It is precisely these motivations that have inspired the community of Galloway to propose a new National Park. Galloway National Park Association was set up in 2016 by a group of local people who believe a National Park can deliver economic and social benefits for its communities. The trustees and members include farmers, landowners, artists, tourism operators and conservationists, and the list is steadily expanding.
The GNPA's founding document ( Galloway National Park - it's our time) sets out its purposes as :-
• promoting the protection, conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural assets of the area for public benefit.
• promoting, undertaking and publishing research into issues affecting conservation and enjoyment of the natural and cultural heritage of the area and to identify how this may be furthered through the designation of a National Park.
• advancing public education and understanding of how a National Park could contribute to improving health and well-being through the enjoyment, understanding or enhancement of the area's natural and cultural assets.
The exciting news is that the Scottish Parliament has unanimously given its backing to the principle of further national parks following the acceptance of a proposal by Scottish MP Colin Smyth that "Parliament ... recognises the contribution that national parks make to protecting forestry and widening the natural environment and therefore believes that new national parks should be designated."
Sadly the actions arising from this have been put on hold due to the devastating impact of Covid-19 but it remains an important milestone in the campaign.
What we can do as Green Liberal Democrats ?
It took over 70 years before the first Scottish National Park was established. It must not take another 70!. There is need for all Green Liberal Democrats both north and south of the 'border' ( I am not forgetting our Welsh or Irish members in this) to raise awareness of this exciting proposal amongst friends, other Liberal Democrats members, and relevant committees.
Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has already given his support for the proposal, and met with its local organisers. It now needs the entire Liberal Democrat movement to get behind it, support it, and discover it.
It is perhaps also appropriate for a debate at conference on the importance of all our National Parks, to ensure that adequate resources are made available for their sustainable management, protection and enhancement.
Individual GLD members can also make a very real contribution to this proposal in two ways :-
• By learning more of what is proposals through the links above, and providing much needed campaign funding by becoming a Member of the Association. The Association is a charitable body not supported directly by any government funding. Membership costs just £5. This goes directly to support the work of the GNPA, promoting the region at all levels and galvanising public support for the process of designation. Membership also gives you a stake in the organisation and entitles you to attend and vote at the AGM.
• By visiting the area. You are assured of a warm welcome and traditional Scots hospitality. It is a diverse and rich natural, cultural, and historic environment ranging from wild mountainous areas to forested and coastal scenery, with some of the finest dark-sky experiences in the UK. Galloway itself is a thriving and pulsating hub of artistic creativity. Current Covid advice can be found here.
About the author
Vic Brown is a member of GLD and also the Galloway National Park Association. During the 70's and early 80's he was employed as a Senior Planner to the Lake District National Park where he contributed to the agricultural, forestry, and socio-economic policies of the first National Park Plan.