Scotland’s First National Park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs celebrate its 10th Anniversary this year and its worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of the city. The past is inescapable here as two worlds collide – the gentle Lowlands end abruptly at the Highland Boundry Fault Line and give way to a rugged terrain.
Scotland’s landscapes rank amongst the best in the world, including wild mountains, pristine rivers and lochs, ancient forests, stunning coastline and islands, all rich in wildlife and history. Considering it is over 50 years since National Parks were established in England, Scotland has been relatively slow to realise the potential of National Park designation. The National Parks (Scotland) Act was passed in 2000 and only two National Parks have been designated so far: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in 2002 and Cairngorms National Park in 2003. An extensive consultation exercise into the possibility of establishing one or more coastal and marine National Parks, carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Executive in 2006-2007, has so far not led to any firm proposals, in fact in 2011 the Scottish Government rejected a proposal to create a National Park on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
There appears to be a lack of political will towards the further development of National Parks in Scotland; certainly the Scottish Government has no overall strategy in this regard which is difficult to accept when you consider it was a Scot, John Muir, who initiated one of the first national parks in the world, at Yosemite in the United States. 2014 brings 100 years since his passing and I am sure he will be turning in his grave if he could see the lack of progress in his native Scotland compared with the rest of the world.
A three-year project is underway to promote a National Parks Strategy for Scotland by a partnership between the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and the Association for the Protection for Rural Scotland. The aim of the project is to promote a strategy for developing a comprehensive network of National Parks across Scotland. The aspiration is that this could result in at least three new National Parks being designated by 2015, including Scotland’s first coastal and marine National Park.
For all our sakes lets hope they are successful in their endeavours.