Young people are making their voices heard in the campaign to create Scotland’s third National Park in Galloway.
It comes as several of Scotland’s major political parties have pledged their support for new National Parks ahead of next month’s Scottish Parliament elections.
Six Stewartry secondary school students are among those who will help drive Count Me In! an initiative designed to allow young people and businesses to show their backing for The Galloway National Park Association’s (GNPA) proposals. These are to create a National Park covering large parts of Galloway and some of Ayrshire in south west Scotland in order to:
- Conserve, protect and promote some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes and coastlines.
- Provide new jobs and sustainable business opportunities.
- Encourage community development
- Generate sustainable tourism
- Provide an abundance of new leisure and recreational opportunities.
The GNPA has had strong support from young people since it launched in 2017. Many see it as a way to conserve the region they love and provide activities and opportunities that offer them with a positive future in an area with a fragile economy.
Some will now be using their social media skills to spread the word about Count Me In! They include:
Mackinley Brown (15): “Having a National Park here is the right thing to do. This is a great area to show off because it’s so diverse. There’s so much wildlife here that’s not getting protected, and it deserves it as much as any place in the country. It’s a shame that Scotland’s got as few National Parks as it has.”
Loulou Henderson (16): “This is such a great place to be and to visit. A Galloway National Park would protect it all but would also bring in tourists and means lots more activities.”
Kate Mariacci (15): “Galloway is outstandingly beautiful. I want to share this with the rest of the nation and even the rest of the world. The wildlife is just absolutely amazing.”
Anna Miller (15): “It would mean more chances for people to see what a beautiful area this is, and would create more job opportunities that would encourage young people to stay rather than moving away.”
Logan Thorburn (15): “I think it would bring more activities, like more trails for mountain biking, walking trails, swimming, and other things and that would be just great.”
Ruby Walsh-Kirk (15): “I think a National Park would bring more activities to the region and would create new opportunities for jobs.”
Several of the social media volunteers have previously spoken at conferences about GNPA, taken part in a TV documentary and have been gathering names for a petition they plan to deliver to the Scottish Parliament which over 600 young people have already signed.
The Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats have all declared their support for more National Parks in Scotland – with the Tories specifically backing Galloway. GNPA has high hopes that Labour will follow suit.
In South West Scotland Finlay Carson MSP (Conservative), Emma Harper MSP (SNP) and Colin Smyth MSP (Labour) have all actively supported proposals for a Galloway National Park.
Sadly Leith MSP Ben Macpherson, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, recently told a parliamentary debate that his government currently has no plans for further National Parks – even though we have just two in Scotland.
Rob Lucas, Chair of the Association, said: “It’s clear that there is tremendous public and political support for a new National Park in Galloway- and we believe this will continue to build through Count Me In!
“Young people are the future of our country and we should be ensuring that areas like Galloway are protected and enhanced to give them a sustainable and fulfilling future in this wonderful part of the world.
“It’s an absolute folly that while Wales, England, Europe and the rest of the world are forging ahead with the creation of new National Parks and protected environments, Scotland is currently being left behind.
“We very much hope that the next Scottish government will take heed and set up a full public consultation process rather than setting their faces against a proposal that would bring so many benefits to the region and the nation.”
- In Wales the Labour Party, which currently runs the devolved government has made an election manifesto commitment to a new National Park covering the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.
- The Westminster Government has pledged £80 million for National Parks and protected landscapes as part of a “green recovery plan”.
Note to Editors
- Picture by Colin Hattersley.
- For more about Count Me In! see www.gallowaynationalpark.org.
- Anyone who supports GNPA aims can also join the association itself for an annual fee of just £5 see www.gallowaynationalpark.org.
- Parental permissions have been provided for all the young people quoted and photographed.
Contact: Rob Lucas 07808 775901 or Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or at Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.org
About the National Park proposal
A National Park for Galloway would promote and conserve some of Scotland’s most magnificent landscapes. It would attract visitors and allow a fragile rural economy to rebuild and thrive whilst helping Scotland tackle its biodiversity and climate change challenges.
Creating the park would go a long way to meeting the country’s commitment to protect at least 30% of its land for nature by 2030. The suggested boundaries would extend from Dumfries & Galloway into South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire. This area not only meets the criteria set out in the National Parks (Scotland) Act, but our research shows there is widespread enthusiasm for the idea.
Galloway National Park Association has had conversations with almost 2,000 people at over 100 meetings and events across the area. The resounding feedback is that Galloway wants a National Park.
- Our questionnaire showed that 84% of respondents are in favour of a National Park.
- We have the support of all the local councils (Dumfries & Galloway, South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire)
- The need for a National Park has increased since we started work – Galloway continues to fall further behind the rest of Scotland in economic terms.
- Galloway’s dispersed rural population presents additional challenges but the long-term security of being a National Park is seen by many communities and businesses as a catalyst for their development.
- COVID and Brexit are having a huge impact on the area: National Park status will help to redress this.
- The brief 2020 holiday season showed a clear need for more resources to help manage tourists and ensure a high-quality experience for visitors and locals alike.
- The national and international recognition that a National Park would bring to people to Galloway would help drive a green recovery across many sectors and attract people to live and work in the area.
About the Galloway National Park Association
Galloway National Park Association is a community-based group with trustees from across the region. We started work in 2017 and have over 750 members. Our objects are:
- To promote the protection, conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural assets of the area for public benefit.
- To promote, undertake and publish research into issues affecting conservation and enjoyment of the natural and cultural heritage of the area and to identify how this may be furthered through the designation of a National Park.
- To advance public education in and understanding of how a National Park could contribute to improving health and wellbeing through the enjoyment, understanding or enhancement of the area’s natural and cultural asset”.
Rob Lucas is the association’s Chair and Sandra McDowall the Vice Chair. Dame Barbara Kelly is the President. The association has been funded by membership and donations, and contributions from Scottish Campaign for National Parks, Dumfries & Galloway Council, South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council.
Galloway National Park Association is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with OSCR (SC047398) on 9th May 2017