The creation of a Galloway National Park would be “game changing” for the local economy in both Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.
The local MSP was speaking during a Scottish Parliament debate on National Parks in the chamber on Tuesday (7 June).
The Scottish Government has recently committed to establish at least one new National Park in Scotland by the end of this Parliamentary session in 2026.
Speaking in the debating chamber, Colin Smyth said: “It is no secret that I have been vocal in my view that one of those new parks should be in Galloway—a proposal that has significant public support, including from Dumfries and Galloway Council as far back as when I chaired its economy and environment committee, and from councils in Ayrshire.
“With an internationally designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization biosphere, the first dark skies park in Scotland, the stunning Galloway forest, a rich mosaic of farmland that is important to delivering food security and amazing wildlife, Galloway has been a national park in waiting for years.
“Indeed, it is five years since a report for the Galloway National Park Association revealed that a new national park could add between 250,000 and 500,000 new visits each year to Galloway and South Ayrshire—worth £30 million to £60 million in additional spend—helping to create and support between 700 and 1,400 additional jobs to complement existing jobs in crucial sectors such as agriculture.
“That could be game changing for the local economy in one of the most peripheral parts of Scotland, whose challenges of low pay and outward migration of young people are well documented.”
Colin Smyth said that other areas in his constituency, including the Scottish Borders, would receive a “significant economic boost from national park status”.
He continued: “The southern part of the Borders in particular, which is the favoured area of the campaign for a Scottish Borders national park, is in pressing need of an economic boost.
“With easy access to the central belt and the north of England, a Borders national park would help to deliver that boost and bring in more visitors to the area.
“The community campaigns in Galloway, the Borders and elsewhere show that there is real demand and a real appetite to grow the number of national parks in Scotland.
“That is why Labour believes that the Scottish Government’s ambition should not be limited to just one new national park in this parliamentary session.
“Given how far Scotland has fallen behind, there is no reason to stop the Scottish Government favouring, for example, two parks in southern Scotland. That could potentially reduce costs through the sharing of services, build on the close and growing links between the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, and ensure that every borderlands rural local authority has a national park in its area.”
Colin Smyth also paid tribute to the community-led campaigns by the Galloway National Park Association and the campaign for a Scottish Borders national park.