Opinion: Scotland Needs to Establish New National Parks in order to Protect and Restore Nature

A view over Loch Lomond in Scotland, looking north. Photograph: Unsplash

A new consultation published by the Scottish Government is encouraging individuals to share their thoughts on the creation of Scotland’s first new National Park in almost 20 years.

The last National Park to be officially established in Scotland was Cairngorms in 2003, which is the largest National Park in the UK, covering roughly 4,528-kilometre squares of land. Local communities have advocated that a new National Park in Scotland would have positive benefits, particularly in tackling climate change and promoting sustainable land use.

Biodiversity Minister, Lorna Slater, has recently visited Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park to open the consultation and has stated that:

“It is almost two decades since Scotland’s first National Parks were established. They work hard to tackle the biodiversity and climate crisis and help manage facilities for visitors. They have become jewels in Scotland’s crown, and now is the time to add to them.”

Clearly, National Parks play an integral role in protecting and restoring the beautiful nature found in our country, but to what extent do National Parks benefit the environment?

How National Parks Benefit the Environment

The first question to ask is, what exactly are National Parks? Kiwano provides quite a succinct definition:  

“National Parks are areas of land, usually of extreme natural beauty or rich biodiversity, that are protected by the state for conservation and tourism purposes.”

Tourism and education are one of the key benefits of having National Parks, as they make for a great eco-friendly activity for visitors and really allow visitors to absorb and admire the natural beauty of the country they are visiting.

Furthermore, National Parks have designated pieces of land that are free from intrusive human interference, and instead freely allow for the evolution of natural processes, in which nature can truly flourish uninterrupted.

National Parks also play an integral role in maintaining prolific eco-systems as well as being effective sources of energy.  Due to how undisturbed they are, National Parks make great spaces for maintaining ecosystems, such as plants being able to maintain the oxygen in the air in order to offset carbon emissions. Moreover, any water features within the parks that are protected can assist in the production of renewable, and clean energy!

Both the Loch Lomond and Trossachs and Cairngorms National Parks are determined to take action on the climate crisis and play several crucial roles in helping Scotland achieve its net-zero target!

Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

Landscape shot of Loch Lomond National Park. Photograph: Unsplash

Established by the Scottish Government in 2002, Loch Lomond and Trossachs extends to cover much of the western part of the Scottish Highlands, lying just north of Glasgow.

The National Park highly advocates for making a change to the climate, which can be seen immediately upon visiting the front page of their website, which states:

“The National Park plays a crucial role in tackling the twin challenges of the Global Climate Emergency and nature crisis. But we all must act now.”

It makes clear that it’s not just the Park that contributes to tackling the climate emergency, but that it’s also integral for all of us to play a role. The National Park has a detailed mission statement that promises that by 2030, it will be a net zero-emitting organisation.  Their Mission Zero pledge can be viewed here.

Furthermore, they also have advice on how both people living at the National Park and visitors can reduce their impact on the National Park and take action against the climate emergency. Simple things such as choosing public transport such as train lines to reduce emissions, as well as ditching one use-disposables, which make up for four-fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint!

Overall, it is exceptionally clear how dedicated the staff at the National Park are truly dedicated to both preserving the park and its beauty, as well as making its visitors aware of their pledges to help tackle the climate emergency.

Cairngorms National Park

“Beautiful morning light over a tranquil lake. Photographed at Loch Morlich, Cairngorms. Photograph: Unsplash

As mentioned previously, Cairngorms is the largest National Park in the UK and was established in 2003. The park covers the Cairngorms range of mountains and was expanded into Perth and Kinross in 2010.

Recently, the Cairngorms National Park authority released a statement on the new National Park consultation, stating that:

“National Parks in Scotland are important places, not just for wildlife and habitats, but they should also benefit the people that live and work there as well as those who visit to enjoy the park’s special qualities.”

Given that Cairngorms represents 6% of Scotland’s Landmass, they have released a broad paper titled Net Zero with Nature, which provides an incredibly detailed account of how the Park plans to respond to the climate emergency and what steps they are taking to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.

Beyond just these two National Parks, Britain is home to 14 of them spread across Scotland, England, and Wales.  Below, we have created a story map that provides details of the location and some information on all the National Parks found throughout the UK!

Given that England has six National Parks and Wales has three, there is definitely room for Scotland to have more. While it may take some time for one to be fully established, it is evident that National Parks can only help to promote a more sustainable future, as well as highlight the true beauty that is the Scottish landscape.

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