Former rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing has accused Green minister Lorna Slater of adopting a ‘Marie Antoinette approach’ to the creation of new national parks in Scotland.

Last week, Ms Slater outlined her support for the move in a piece for The Scottish Farmer and said a new park – a commitment of the Bute House power sharing deal between the Greens and the SNP – would bring opportunities for farmers.

READ MORENew national park will bring opportunities to farmers

However, Inverness and Nairn MSP Mr Ewing, an outspoken critic of the coalition, highlighted concerns among residents in the existing parks.

Writing for The Herald on Sunday, Mr. Ewing pointed to the Aviemore and Spey Valley community forum where a vote held last month saw 92% (444 votes) say the park ‘was not working well’, while just 3% (10 votes) said the park was working well.

He said: “Many local farmers in my constituency are concerned at the failure to advance their interests as they had hoped from the park in the early days.”

Turning to species reintroduction, Mr. Ewing said beavers had been introduced without the consent of farmers with the risk of major damage to farmland and injury of livestock, while regulations are stricter within its boundaries than elsewhere, and ‘no real effort has been made to promote local produce’.

He added: “Instead, millions of pounds have been thrown on projects such as that to ‘save’ the capercaillie – whose population has reportedly fallen by about half in the last five years.

“They have refused the essential control of predators which regard Caper eggs as breakfast, lunch, and tea. Local housing projects have all too often been snarled up in bureaucracy and a proposed new town, An Camus Mor, was strangled at birth.”

Mr. Ewing also issued a call for those living in the area selected to be the new national park to be given the opportunity to vote on whether to support or scupper the plan.

He said: “My question is: How on Earth can you have sufficient evidence of such local consent unless you ask all of the people who live there? Not just random groups of activists.”

Noting that several locations for the new park had already pulled out of the selection process and protests against the new park had taken place in various rural locations, Mr. Ewing slammed the Greens’ Lorna Slater for failing to recognise the concerns.

“She adopts a modern day Marie Antoinette – ‘let them eat cake’ – approach. Why ask people what they want when you already know what they need. And have decided what they are to get.

“This despite the fact that Bute House agreement, between the SNP and the Greens, where the pledge to create a park was born, assures us that no new park will be created without local consent.”

Mr. Ewing concluded: “In a democracy, everyone counts or nobody counts. This issue will be a litmus test of whether our Scottish Government truly believes in local democracy where local people determine their own future, or that their fate will be sealed by a centralising and indeed authoritarian power.”

At least one new national park is to be created by 2026, with five areas in the Scottish Borders, Galloway, Lochaber, Loch Awe, and Tay Fores -in the running for selection.

NFU Scotland has voiced concerns about the negative impact any new park will have on the sector, including increased traffic on unsuitable roads, stricter planning regulations, and rising property prices placing homes out of the reach of local residents.