NFU Scotland has pledged to continue supporting farmers and crofters in their opposition to the creation of new national parks as the initial nomination process closes on February 29.

The number of areas thought to be submitting a bid has shrunk considerably in recent weeks in the face of local opposition and is now thought to be Galloway, Lochaber, Loch Awe, and Tay Forest.

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NFUS is reminding members that following the closure of the nomination process, the Scottish Government will assess the nominations against whether they satisfy criteria in an agreed appraisal framework over the spring. It will decide which, if any, of the nominations will be taken forward.

The Scottish Farmer: Alasdair MacnabAlasdair Macnab

Any nominations taken forward will progress to the reporter stage with the Scottish Government appointing a reporter. The reporter will then undertake detailed consultation and information gathering on the proposal. This stage presents the best opportunity for affected farmers and crofters to feed into this process if the nomination is in their area.

Scottish ministers will make the final decision on the designation. As set out in the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens, a new park or parks will be designated before the end of this Parliamentary term in May 2026.

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NFUS vice-president Alasdair Macnab said: “Our national position is that NFUS is against the creation of new national parks in Scotland, and I can reassure our farming and crofting members that, if they are in an area that makes it through the nomination process, then we will be there to support you.

“This process is another disappointing and poorly thought-out product of the Bute House Agreement, an agreement that we have publicly called to be scrapped.

“Our opposition is based on the experience of many farmers and crofters currently living and working in either the Cairngorms National Park or the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. In recent consultation with them, it was clear that existing parks had failed to make a positive contribution to farming and crofting.”

Specifically, the majority of members felt that the creation of new parks would:

• increase bureaucracy and stifle growth, innovation and development.

• increase access-related issues.

• reduce housing availability for the local population.

• bring no additional benefits over and above existing policies and legislation.

• prioritise tourism and visitor access over local farming businesses to the detriment of the rural economy and the natural environment.

NFUS is calling for independent evidence of the value that existing parks bring to farmers, crofters, and the local community and a similarly robust case why the national park outcomes cannot be achieved by other existing funding programmes such as VisitScotland and regional enterprise bodies.

Mr Macnab added: “The nomination process for new national parks has caused a lot of concern and confusion for members with regards to what it means for them and their area.

“Meaningful involvement of the local community at each stage in the nomination process is key but that was not being delivered by the proposed bids.

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“Feedback from members in existing national parks is that there has not been enough focus on local views, and where community involvement was present, it was tokenistic.

“That must not happen this time round. Wider community views must be considered not just the views of the nomination group being presented. This is necessary to avoid polarised views within a community leading to groups feeling disenfranchised and that a national park is being imposed on them.

“Many are also asking where the funding for a new national park will come from at a time when members want poorer local services, unacceptable ferry provision, and deteriorating roads and infrastructure to be prioritised.”

Mr. Macnab continued: “In the concerning absence of any detail on how new national parks are to be funded in the face of the current national fiscal pressures, and the potential that another layer of complexity and bureaucracy will be laid on farmers and crofters, we believe the means to achieve the outcomes being sought are already in place without creating unpopular and unnecessary national parks.”