South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Rural Economy Spokesperson Colin Smyth has said the Scottish Government’s failure to support plans for a Galloway National Park are a ‘massive blow’ for the south of Scotland.
In November 2019, 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.
However, during a debate on the subject in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, the Scottish Government ruled out the creation of a new Galloway National Park.
Rural Affairs Minister Ben McPherson told the Scottish Parliament that the SNP did not back the designation of anymore national parks in Scotland to add to the two existing parks – Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – created by the last Labour Government nearly twenty years ago.
Speaking in Parliament, Colin Smyth said: “There is no stronger case—and no stronger community support for a new national park—than the case that has been made by the Galloway National Park Association’s campaign.
“It has previously highlighted that park status could add between 250,000 and 500,000 new visits each year to Galloway and South Ayrshire, which would be worth between £30 million and £60 million in additional spend, thereby helping to create and support between 700 and 1,400 additional jobs.
“Even before the current pandemic, the weaknesses and challenges of the local economy in one of the most peripheral parts of Scotland were there for all to see, so the economic boost that a Galloway national park could bring was needed. That need is now more important than ever.”
After the debate, he said: “The decision by the SNP to snub new national parks is a missed opportunity to help build back better. We know National Park status would promote investment, increase tourism and create post-Covid recovery in areas such as Galloway.
“After years of work developing detailed proposals, it is a real kick in the teeth for the Galloway National Park campaign that the Scottish Government won’t even agree to calls for a feasibility study, and it adds insult to injury by saying it was because they didn’t want to make any more investment in rural Galloway.
“People can try to sugar coat the debate but there is no getting away from the reality that the Government doesn’t support new National Parks. This is a real blow to the campaign which has been working tirelessly to move plans for a National Park forward. It was disgraceful that the Government said one of the reasons for its decisions is because their priority is to spend money on the two existing national parks but not in the south of Scotland.
“Once again, the south is the forgotten region of Scotland where the Government is concerned.”