Dear Sirs,

There can be no doubt that Wigtownshire is a beautiful place to live and work, and a welcoming place for tourists to visit. Part of the appeal is we are often seen as the hidden part of Scotland, free from the hustle and bustle of the cities, and the Instagram hot spots in the Highlands.

But with that comes the frustration of a centralised government, that, as a region, we are often forgotten, under appreciated and lacking in investment.

So you could say, that on the face of it, a National Park for Galloway could in some ways help with this. But, we really have to question the risk that brings to our infrastructure, the people who already live here, and the long term viability of strong communities.

You only have to look at Skye to see how an increase in tourists, as a result of the route 500, is stretching human resources, putting pressure on car parks and holiday accommodation, with many caravans now parking up in unsolicited areas, and driving more holiday homes and less permanent residents. Yes, the economy benefits financially during the peak season, but what impact does this have on the area the rest of the year?

Steps towards a new National Park for Scotland progressed last week, when as part of the SNP’s back room negotiations with the Green Party, Minister Lorna Slater, opened up a consultation to seek views on the location and structure on where a new park should be located, and how it would look.

The Galloway National Park Association (GNPA) must be commended in the years running up to this, for laying the ground works for a strong case for Galloway. However, we at NFU Scotland have huge reservations about how honest GNPA have been in consulting stakeholders, including residents, and in some ways could be accused of confirmation biased, by ignoring views and concerns that counter their own. This is especially true of those from agriculture, a thriving sector within Dumfries and Galloway.

In her statement releasing the consultation, Ms Slater discussed the positive benefits to the environment and biodiversity, and the opportunities for visitors to enjoy our glorious area. But, fundamentally, visitors can already visit Dumfries and Galloway to enjoy the scenery with our region already investing in many walks, cycle trails and tourist attractions. These are all supported by strong business models with a drive to bring in income to the local economy, creating jobs, and supporting sectors so they are sustainable long-term, including agriculture.

So why do we need a National Park to replace what is already very successful, and if we do, why was there no mention of business, support for local people or economic return in Ms Slater’s statement?

We need to celebrate what Galloway already offers and investment in strong marketing campaigns, such as those run by South West Tourism Alliance, would be as, if not more, powerful than unnecessary investment. The SNP have a responsibility to spend OUR taxes so that they provide the most benefit to the communities in Scotland.

At a time when the financial purse strings are going to get tighter for many households over the next year, throwing money at a National Park, based on decisions by 'blow ins and retirees', and people who don’t understand our region, just lacks any strategic direction and frankly, feels like a National Government is making rural theme parks for urban residents with no consideration of those in rural places, once again.

Colin Ferguson, NFUS D&G