New National Park Consultation (Phase 1) - Scene Setting
A stakeholder consultation on the section criteria and approach to National Parks in Scotland
Part A - Scene setting – Scotland’s National Parks
This section provides background to Scotland’s current approach to National Parks and some of the key considerations in establishing new ones. Further information on the international context for Scotland’s National Parks and the key parts of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 are provided in Annex A and B of this paper respectively.
In Scotland and throughout the world, National Parks are established to protect and enhance some of a nation’s finest wildlife, landscapes, seascapes and cultural heritage. They also provide a range of first class opportunities for people to enjoy, learn and value the natural and cultural heritage of these areas. Developed to meet Scottish needs for more integrated management of nationally important areas, our National Parks also play an important role in sustaining local communities and championing the sustainable development of these areas.
The Scottish approach to National Parks contains a number of key principles.
- Park areas have to be of outstanding national importance for their natural heritage, or their combination of natural and cultural heritage. The legislation provides for the long-term commitment to the conservation and enhancement of these special qualities of the area, and specifically its biodiversity, landscapes and historic features.
- Each of the four statutory aims of the Park are concerned with making positive things happen. National parks can play a key role in restoring biodiversity. Existing economic and recreational uses of the area are also supported; and new uses are encouraged provided that they do not impact negatively on the special qualities of the area.
- A Park Authority is established to oversee the planning and management of the Park area in order to ensure that the aims of the National Park are collectively achieved. Park Authorities are required to prepare and implement a Park Plan. Scottish Ministers approve the Plan, and the wider public sector is expected to contribute positively to its preparation and implementation.
- Through their direct representation on the Park Board and in the process of preparation and implementation of the Park Plan, local communities play an enhanced role in the governance and management of the area.
- Each Park is established through a separate designation order approved by the Scottish Parliament following extensive consultation, both locally and nationally.
- The specific arrangements for the powers, functions and governance of each Park can be tailored to meet the needs of each Park area. Section 31 of the Act allows for further modification of its operation to meet the needs of Park areas which extend into Scotland’s marine environment. There are also unused powers for public bodies to delegate their functions to National Park authorities.
Scotland’s integrated approach to National Parks acknowledges that social and economic development must be addressed alongside the care and enjoyment of the natural and cultural heritage. Ministers are also seeking to make sure Scotland’s approach to National Parks delivers more for nature recovery and achieving net zero.
Key considerations for new National Parks
Scotland’s first two National Parks were designated for broadly similar reasons:
Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
- Need to maintain a working countryside
- Need to manage recreational and visitor pressures
- Need to safeguard and enhance the natural heritage of the area
- Need to give greater care to the cultural heritage of the area
- Need to facilitate social inclusion and community development
- Need to maintain a working countryside
- Need to make better provision for recreation
- Need to safeguard and enhance the natural heritage of the area
- Increased interest in the care of the cultural heritage of the areaNeed to facilitate social inclusion and community development
Report on the proposal for a Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park (2001)
Report on the proposal for a Cairngorms National Park (2002)
The arrangements set out in the statutory designation orders for both of these Parks are similar comprising: a Park Board, a stand-alone non-departmental public body (NDPB), planning and access functions; and a range of powers drawn from existing legislation. This approach was considered appropriate given the reasons for designation. It also took into account that both these areas cover relatively large populations and complex administrative arrangements (including at least four local authorities, two of Scotland’s three enterprise agencies, several destination management organisations, and regional divisions of most public bodies).
The arrangements for Scotland’s next national park could be similar to the first two. At the same time, they may need to be different in several respects e.g.
- Covering a different size of area (smaller or larger) or a different size of population;
- Extending to, or largely covering, a coastal and marine area;
- Located within fewer local authority areas or a single local authority area;
- A different range of powers and functions;
- Alternative governance and staffing models;
- Designated for a different range of reasons e.g.
- Delivering more on the opportunities to restore nature as well protecting what exists already.
- A stronger role in demonstrating exemplars of sustainable community development and land-use through natural capital approaches
- As a tool to increase population growth in more remote parts of Scotland
- A focus on rebalancing visitor pressures across parts of Scotland as well as the management of current visitor pressures.
Establishing new National Parks also brings wider opportunities in terms of nature recovery and could be a key element to achieving the “30x30” commitment" to protect at least 30% of Scotland’s land area for nature by 2030. At the same time, refreshing the approach to National Parks may have implications for the role and arrangements for existing natural and cultural heritage designations.
In deciding to establish new National Parks, a number of strategic considerations therefore become important.
- What should be the key role or roles of National Parks?
- As the number of Parks grows in Scotland, how do we increase their collective impact?
- Do we want the suite of National Parks to collectively represent the very best of Scotland’s nature or be representative of all of Scotland’s nature?
- What are the implications of new National Parks for the role and importance of other natural and cultural heritage designations?
- How diverse do we want the strategic framework and operations of our National Parks to be?
These issues are explored further through the consultation questions.
Annex A - International perspectives on National Parks
While the primary purposes of National Parks are broadly similar (nature conservation, landscape conservation, public enjoyment and understanding), there is a range of approaches reflecting different emphases on the protection of nature and the inclusion of social and economic considerations. This diversity is illustrated within the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorisation of protected areas.
Ia Strict Nature Reserve: Category Ia are strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphical features where human visitation use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
Ib Wilderness Area: Category Ib protected areas are usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas retaining their natural character and influence without permanent or significant human habitation which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
II National Park: Category II protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual scientific educational recreational and visitor opportunities. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
III Natural Monument or Feature: Category III protected areas are set aside to protect a specific natural monument which can be a landform sea mount submarine cavern geological feature such as a cave or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
IV Habitat/Species Management Area: Category IV protected areas aim to protect particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority. Many Category IV protected areas will need regular active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats but this is not a requirement of the category. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
V Protected Landscape/ Seascape: A protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological biological cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
VI Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources: Category VI protected areas conserve ecosystems and habitats together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large with most of the area in a natural condition where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims of the area. Go to IUCN Protected areas and land use page for more information.
In developing its advice on National Parks in 1999, NatureScot commissioned a range of research on National Parks including a review of models of National Parks. While now dated, much of the analysis of this report remains valid. In particular, it identified a range of relevant approaches to National Parks in Europe and globally, which included:
- small areas of strict protection and state ownership more akin to Scotland’s National Nature Reserves (e.g. Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden) – mainly IUCN category 2;
- larger areas including strictly controlled core zones for conservation and other zones that allow for a range of compatible recreation, land-use and economic development (e.g. France, Italy, Germany and Canada) – a mix of IUCN Category 2 and 5 with a difference in classification of National Parks even within countries;
- larger strongly “humanised” natural areas or cultural landscapes (e.g. England, Wales) with similar approaches found in French Regional Parks and other European Nature Parks– all IUCN Category 5.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the commonality in land ownership, use and governance that we share, the Scottish model developed in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 is closest to the English and Welsh approach to National Parks. However, there are a number of key differences including the stronger integration of cultural heritage into the legislative framework, the addition of specific sustainable land-use and social and economic aims, the flexibility over planning arrangements; and the inclusion of directly elected members from the community on Park boards. In being 100% funded by Scottish Ministers and run by non-departmental public bodies equivalent to NatureScot, the administration of Scotland’s National Parks is different and more akin to some European practice.
Annex B - Key extracts from the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000
Key extracts from the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000
Aims of National Parks
1 The National Park aims
- conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area;
- promote the sustainable use of the natural resources of the area;
- promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area; and
- promote the sustainable social and economic development of the area’s communities.
General purpose and functions of National Park Authorities
9(1) - The general purpose of a National Park authority is to ensure that the National Park aims are collectively achieved in relation to the National Park in a co-ordinated way.
9 (2) - A National Park authority has, in relation to the National Park -
(a) the general powers conferred by virtue of schedule 2,
(b) the functions conferred by virtue of schedule 3,
(c) such planning functions as may be conferred under section 10,
(d) such additional functions as the designation order may specify
(e) such other functions as are conferred by virtue of this Act.
Point 9(d) means that changes to National Park powers can be carried out through amendments to the designation order rather than having to always change the primary legislation.
- S 9 (6) In exercising its functions a National Park authority must act with a view to accomplishing the purpose set out in subsection (1); but if, in relation to any matter, it appears to the authority that there is a conflict between the National Park aim set out in section 1(a) and other National Park aims, the authority must give greater weight to the aim set out in section 1(a).
Section 9(6) of the Act sets out an overarching requirement for National Park Authorities to safeguard the special qualities of the Park area. This means that the National Park Authority has to give greater weight if there is a conflict between aim one (natural and cultural heritage) and the other aims. This requirement only applies to the National Park Authority and not to any other public body operating in the National Park. There is also no definition of ‘greater weight’ in the primary legislation.
Duty to have regard to the National Park Plan
14 - The Scottish Ministers, a National Park authority, a local authority and any other public body or office-holder must, in exercising functions so far as affecting a National Park, have regard to the National Park Plan as adopted under section 12(7)(a).
Byelaws and Management Rules
All National Park Authorities have the general powers to create byelaws (schedule 2, section 8) and to set up management rules (schedule 2, section 10). Both provide for the control of a range of activities which are illegal (such as littering); or detrimental in specific locations or concentrations (such as the use of open fires or wild camping) or are incompatible with other uses (such restrictions on jet skis).
8 (1) A National Park authority may make byelaws for the National Park for the purposes of -
(a) protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the National Park,
(b) preventing damage to the land or anything in, on or under it,
(c) securing the public’s enjoyment of, and safety in, the National Park.
8 (2) In particular, a National Park authority may make byelaws under sub-paragraph (1) -
(a) to regulate or prohibit the lighting of fires,
(b) to prohibit the depositing of rubbish and the leaving of litter,
(c) for the prevention or suppression of nuisances,
(d) to regulate the use of vehicles (other than the use of vehicles on a road within the meaning of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 (c.50),
(e) to regulate the exercise of recreational activities.
10 (1) Sections 112 to 118 (management rules) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (c.45) have effect as if references to a local authority and to the authority’s area included references to a National Park authority and the National Park.
10 (2) In the application of those sections to a National Park authority -
(a) the reference in section 112(9) to management rules being sealed with the common seal of an authority, and
(b) section 117(6) (disapplication of section 56(1) of Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (c.65)),are omitted.”
Application to Marine areas
Section S31 of the Act allows Scottish Ministers to modify a number of provisions of the Act to make them relevant to coastal and marine areas. The application of this section was explored further in with NatureScot’s advice on coastal and marine National Parks in 2006.