South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has expressed his disappointment following the news that Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon has suggested a “wait and see” approach to the creation of a Galloway National Park.

The campaign, which has been backed all the way by Colin Smyth, is run by the Galloway National Parks Association (GNPA).

A recent letter from the Minister to GNPA said she recognised the area’s socio-economic needs but proposed a “wait and see” approach on the basis that investment in the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere might all be expected to deliver improvement and should be allowed to bed in.

GNPA said that while SoSEA and the Borderlands Deal should help to improve the area’s economic prospects, a National Park would add to their capacity to do so, particularly in the west of the region where rural deprivation is increasing.

In November, the case for Galloway to become Scotland’s third national park was given a boost in the Scottish Parliament after Colin Smyth’s call on the Government to designate new national parks was unanimously backed by MSPs.

At present Scotland has two national parks – in the Cairngorms and at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

A Galloway National Park would include parts of Galloway and South Ayrshire, however, it would require Scottish Government approval.

Colin Smyth said: “The momentum behind the campaign for a Galloway national park is growing all the time.

“I had hoped the fact the Government did not vote against my motion in Parliament in November showed that their position was changing and they were becoming convinced to come on board with the idea of new national parks in Scotland, including here in Galloway.

“It’s disappointing that Mairi Gougeon’s response to the Galloway National Parks Association is that we ‘wait and see’.

“National parks have a proven track record of providing major economic advantages to their areas, supporting local businesses, generating jobs for young people, providing affordable homes, promoting investment in sustainable rural development and growing the tourism sector.

“These are all benefits we sorely need in the south west of Scotland and a new national park would be a huge boost to the region. The Government seem to think that it is up to the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to potentially fund a Galloway National Park. However, the existing two parks in Scotland aren’t mainly funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise or Scottish Enterprise but directly by the Scottish Government and a Galloway National Park shouldn’t be treated differently.

“The Government needs to listen and work with the community now to develop a plan for a Galloway National Park that meets the needs of the community and realises the huge economic and environmental benefits this will bring to our region.”

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