SCOTLAND'S PUBLIC – whether as communities, groups or private individuals – have been invited to share their views in a consultation on the creation of Scotland’s first new National Parks in almost 20 years.

The Scottish Government has committed to establish at least one new National Park in Scotland by the end of this Parliamentary session in 2026, as part of its Bute House agreement with the Scottish Green Party and the Programme for Government.

Now the formal process is underway to decide where this park – or parks – should be, although it is already well-recorded that there is a campaign to establish one in Dumfries and Galloway.

Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater visited Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park to open the consultation. Ms Slater said: “It is almost two decades since Scotland’s first National Parks in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms were established. Both are home to some of the country’s most outstanding scenery, are internationally important areas for nature and receive millions of visitors each year.

"They work hard to tackle the biodiversity and climate crisis, help manage facilities for visitors, promote responsible access and develop sustainable communities. They have become jewels in Scotland’s crown, and now is the time to add to them.

“We are committed to establish at least one new National Park in Scotland by the end of this Parliamentary session in 2026. To be able to do this in an open and transparent manner, we need to be able to assess any new area which is to be considered for National Park status against a set of agreed expectations," she explained.

“This is where we need your help and ideas. We want to gauge what people want their National Parks to deliver for the environment, culture and the communities within their boundaries. I would strongly encourage everyone to take part and ensure your views are heard and reflected in the shaping of this historic expansion of Scotland’s National Parks.”

The Scottish Government said that it was aware of at least 10 communities or groups which have in the recent past expressed interest in National Park status, so some means of evaluating between areas will be required to identify the candidate areas to be progressed initially. Currently, no criteria for selecting National Parks exist other than the limited statutory criteria on the face of the National Park (Scotland) Act.

NatureScot has been asked to provide advice on this framework to Scottish Ministers by the end of October, which will include engaging with a range of stakeholders. Ministers will then approve the framework and carry out further consultation on proposed candidates areas for National Park status.

Speaking up for the NFU Scotland Dumfries and Galloway region, its chair Colin Ferguson, who farms near Newton Stewart, said: “Since 2018, NFU Scotland has worked extensively with the Galloway National Park Association. Given that food and farming are the beating heart of the region’s economy, we continue to seek reassurances that the creation of a new park would benefit agricultural businesses and the wider rural economy in Dumfries and Galloway.

“While we have yet to be convinced that a national park would support the region’s agricultural industry in terms of its ambitions and aims, there are already a significant number of other initiatives in place that could strengthen the region’s farming, food and agritourism sector – South of Scotland Enterprise, Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, South of Scotland Destination Alliance and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.

"Dumfries and Galloway is also to form part of a Regional Land Use Partnership pilot region with a clear emphasis on collaborative development between all levels of government, communities, and land-occupying stakeholders to make appropriate climate-related land use change decisions," noted Mr Ferguson.

“All these initiatives have the potential to drive the Dumfries and Galloway economy, making the region a better place to live, work and visit. It is not yet clear to NFUS what additional benefit or value could be secured through a new National Park operating as a separate entity in the region, but we continue to discuss the matter with our membership and will respond to this new consultation in full in due course.”