Why tackling nature and climate crises should be top goal in Scotland’s national parks

Scotland’s national parks should have a stronger mission to rebuild damaged eco-systems and tackle climate change, according to a coalition of the country's leading environmental groups.

The calls come as a new survey reveals around four out of five people believe national parks should be given a new overarching purpose to deliver nature restoration and a just transition to a green society.

The Scottish Government has pledged to create at least one new national park in Scotland by 2026, adding to the two already in existence. A consultation on the plan closes tomorrow.

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Existing aims of a national park are to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area; push sustainable use of its natural resources; promote understanding and enjoyment, including recreation; and drive sustainable economic and social development of local communities.

A new poll by Scottish Environment Link, a forum with more than 40 member charities representing a broad spectrum of interests, shows strong public support for a greater focus on caring for the planet and sustainability.

The survey found 78 per cent of the public would support parks being given this refreshed environmental mandate, while only 3 per cent said they would oppose such an approach.

There are 15 national parks dotted across the UK, but just two are in Scotland. Both were created about 20 years ago – the first, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, was set up in 2002, with Cairngorms, the nation’s largest, established a year later.

Now, in response to calls from communities, conservationists and tourism groups, Scottish ministers have committed to establishing “at least one” new national park by spring 2026.

A new report has suggested Cairngorms National Park could achieve net zero within the next three years -- five years ahead of target -- if it delivers on recently approved partnership plans which include peatland restoration and woodland expansion

Link members are calling for all national parks in Scotland to take a leadership role in fighting global warming and ecological breakdown.

Deborah Long, Link’s chief officer, said: “It is more than two decades since Scotland’s two national parks were established. Today there is a much greater understanding of the urgency of the environmental crises we face, and it is right that our national parks lead in meeting that challenge.

“There are great examples of nature restoration work being done in our national parks. But if we are serious about stopping and reversing nature loss we need to do much more.

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“The designation of a new national park is a welcome opportunity to ensure that the level of ambition in our parks, across Scotland, meet the scale of the challenge on the ground.”

Among the green initiatives at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park, Scotland's first, is a new sustainable transport app that has already been used by more than 7,500 people to plan 10,000-odd journeys in its first year of operation

Groups, including the National Trust for Scotland, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and Scottish Campaign for National Parks, have campaigned for new national parks to be set up, saying the status brings multiple benefits for people living in them, the economy and the environment.

Tourism leaders have also suggested the creation of more national parks could spread the load of visitors across Scotland, reducing pressures on the most popular places and boosting less-travelled areas.

A number of sites with a variety of special features have already been earmarked as contenders for national park status in Scotland – Galloway; Ben Nevis and Glen Coe; Wester Ross; Cheviots and Border Hills; Glen Affric; Harris; and the first ever coastal and marine site, centred around Argyll.

National agency NatureScot is leading the consultation, which seeks views on designating future parks and management of existing parks.

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