National Parks

National Parks in Scotland apply an integrated approach to people and nature. They aim to conserve and enhance their natural and cultural heritage, promote sustainable use of their natural resources; promote understanding and enjoyment; and promote sustainable economic and social development of their communities. 

There are currently two National Parks in Scotland: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs (established 2002), and Cairngorms (established 2003, extended 2010). 

New National Park(s)

Update on the value of National Parks

On 12 October 2023, Scottish Government launched the nomination process for new National Parks.  All areas of Scotland are eligible to apply and communities and organisations across the country are invited to develop and submit their proposals to become Scotland’s next National Park by 29 February 2024. Guidance on the nominations and appraisal process is available at National Parks - Landscape and outdoor access (Scottish Government website)

An online technical workshop for groups exploring or developing a nomination was held on 4 December 2023.  Recordings of the presentations from the workshop are available.  There is also a list of Frequently Asked Questions for this time.   

Scottish Government recently consulted on proposals for legislative change in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 as part of the draft strategic framework for biodiversity

This latest phase of work to establish a new National Park builds on NatureScot's Advice to Ministers, published in January 2023, on what new National Park(s) could deliver for Scotland and how they could be selected. 

To develop this advice, in 2022 we established a National Park stakeholder advisory group. You can download the papers and confirmed notes. We also ran a stakeholder consultation with the public and a wide range of organisations in late 2022. This included a technical questionnaire and several online workshops with attendance from across Scotland. The advice includes a series of annexes providing background information on the consultation including the stakeholder events and analysis of the survey responses.

The development of this advice was part of the first non-statutory phase of work needed to allow Ministers to initiate the statutory process of National Park designation set out in the National Parks (Scotland) 2000 Act. Further information on this work can be found on the Scottish Government website. 

For any questions concerning our advice and the work we have done to date, please feel free to contact the National Park Commission team in NatureScot leading on this work.

Brief History of National Parks Proposals


The Addison Committee propose the Cairngorms area for National Park status.

Government Committees, chaired by Sir Douglas Ramsay, reviewed National Parks for Scotland and five prospective Park areas: Loch Lomond & the Trossachs, the Cairngorms, Glen Coe-Ben Nevis-Black Mount, Wester Ross and Glen Strathfarrar-Glen Affric-Glen Cannich.

The 1949 legislation, which allowed for the establishment of National Parks in England and Wales, did not extend to Scotland but Government designated the five 'Ramsay' areas as National Park Direction Areas, which allowed for some extra scrutiny of development proposals within them.

Cairngorms National Nature Reserve declared.

Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve declared.

The former Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) identified Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, the Cairngorms and Glen Coe-Ben Nevis as areas needing special management to care for their national importance.

The National Park Direction Area designation was replaced, in part, by the new National Scenic Area designation. Of the 40 NSAs identified by CCS, two separate NSAs were identified for parts of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and the Cairngorms had two adjacent NSAs – one covering the main Cairngorms massif, the other for upper Deeside and Lochnagar.

Legislation passed in 1981 to create Regional Parks was used to establish a joint local authority-led Loch Lomond Park Authority - but excluding at this stage the Trossachs.

The former Countryside Commission for Scotland, in reviewing Scotland's mountain areas, recommended National Park status for four areas: Loch Lomond & the Trossachs, the Cairngorms, Glen Coe-Ben Nevis-Black Mount and Wester Ross.

In response to the CCS report, the Government established working parties for Loch Lomond & the Trossachs (chaired by Sir Peter Hutchinson) and the Cairngorms (chaired by Magnus Magnusson) to undertake a detailed review of the needs of the two areas.

The report of the Cairngorms Working Party (Common Sense and Sustainability) recommended an approach based on a partnership of key interests and organisations, and this led to the proposal for the Cairngorms Partnership.

The report of the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs working party (The management of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs) recommended an approach based on enhanced joint local authority working, but for a wider area than covered by Loch Lomond Park Authority, including the Trossachs.

The government responded to both reports. In Loch Lomond & the Trossachs, it favoured the joint committee approach recommended by the ‘Hutchinson’ report, and the local authorities then set up a steering group to consider how matters might be pursued. In the Cairngorms, the Cairngorms Partnership is established.

The new Government declared its intention to legislate for National Parks in Scotland and that Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and the Cairngorms should be Scotland's first Parks. SNH was invited to make proposals for a general model of a National Park appropriate to Scotland's needs, as a basis for legislation by the new Scottish Parliament.

The local authorities of Stirling, West Dunbartonshire and Argyll created the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs Interim Committee, as a basis for working towards a National Park for the area.

The government accepted the general National Parks proposals, developed by SNH after wide-ranging consultation, as the basis for legislation by the new Scottish Parliament and the matter became part of the new Parliament's first legislative programme.

Following a debate in Parliament, the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 passed into law in August, and soon thereafter Government invited SNH to act as a reporter for its proposal to create National Parks for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and the Cairngorms.

Lomond & The Trossachs National Park was established.

Cairngorms National Park was established.

Read National Parks in Scotland ­– Advice to Scottish Government in 1999

Key steps in developing Scotland’s first two National Parks

In 1997, Government announced that National Parks should be established to care for some of Scotland's most special places, and proposed that the first should be in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, followed soon after by the Cairngorms.

The matter of what kind of National Parks Scotland should have was debated during 1998 through a consultation process led by SNH on behalf of Government. SNH's advice to Government in 1999, formed the basis of draft legislation debated by the Scottish Parliament in the early Summer of 2000.

On 5 July 2000 Scotland's Parliament unanimously passed the National Parks (Scotland) Bill and on 9 August 2000 it received Royal Assent. The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 provides the Parliament with the ability to create National Parks in Scotland in any location deemed to be appropriate.

Key steps in the development of the specific proposals for Loch Lomond and Trossachs and the Cairngorms National Parks, including consultation,

Ministers considered SNH's recommendations regarding Loch Lomond and Trossachs and issued a draft Designation Order for consultation in June 2001. The Designation Order for Loch Lomond and Trossachs was subsequently passed by the Scottish Parliament on 24 April 2002 and the new Park was officially opened on 19 July 2002.

Ministers Considered SNH's recommendations on the Cairngorms and issued a draft Designation Order for consultation in May 2002. The Designation Order for Cairngorms was subsequently passed by the Scottish Parliament in December 2002. The new Park Authority was formally established on 25 March 2003, and becomes fully operational on 1 September 2003

Aims and Management of National Parks

The Act states that the aims of National Parks are to:

  • conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area
  • promote 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 by the public
  • promote the sustainable economic and social development of the areas' communities

Where these aims conflict, the relevant National Park authority must prioritise the first of these aims.

Each National Park has its own National Park authority responsible for writing a national park partnership plan and working with everyone involved in managing the Park to ensure its implementation.

Each National Park Authority is an executive non-departmental public body (NDPB) directly funded by the Scottish Government and reporting to Scottish Ministers. They have powers to further the Park's aims including:

  • providing advice and assistance and giving grants
  • entering into management agreements and making bylaws and management rules
  • buying and managing land either by agreement or by compulsory purchase
  • general arrangements for access, provision to make access orders and access agreements;
  • providing information, education and ranger services and facilities

The Act also allows for Park Authorities to have different powers and functions (including development planning and management) depending on the specific planning and management needs of the area.

Each National Park also has a board, made up of:

  • ministerial appointments
  • local authority ward members
  • local residents elected by the community

Boards are limited in size by legislation to:

  • 17 members for the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
  • 19 members for the Cairngorms National Park

Selection and designation of National Parks

The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 provides the framework to establish National Parks in Scotland.

The Act includes three conditions that an area proposed for National Park designation must meet:

  1. that the area is of outstanding national importance because of its natural heritage or the combination of its natural and cultural heritage,
  2. that the area has a distinctive character and a coherent identity, and
  3. that designating the area as a National Park would meet the special needs of the area and would be the best means of ensuring that the National Park aims are collectively achieved in relation to the area in a coordinated way.

The designation process set out in the Act includes assessment and consultation by a reporter appointed by Scottish Ministers.  The creation of each Park also requires further consultation prior to approval by the Scottish Government.

The Act provides for the establishment of marine or coastal National Parks and provides an order making power to allow for tailoring of the designation order to meet the specific needs of such areas. The Act also provides for full consultation with relevant interests within any part of the National Park area consisting of the sea.

Summary of the statutory process for establishing a National Park

Individuals and organisations may propose a National Park for an area, or be asked by Scottish Ministers to comment on the case for one

Scottish Ministers consider the case for a National Park

Step 1

  • Scottish Ministers make a statutory ‘proposal’ to establish a National Park in an area and invite a Reporter to advise on the ‘proposal’.
  • Written proposals and requirements

Step 2

  • Individuals and organisations contribute their views as part of the consultation process
  • The Reporter undertakes a public consultation lasting for at least 12 weeks and prepares advice taking into account based on the views expressed during the consultation.
  • Public consultation document

Step 3

  • The reporter advises Scottish ministers and its advice is published
  • Published advice

Step 4

  • Ministers decide to hold a public enquiry
  • Individuals and organisations contribute their views as part of the consultation process
  • Scottish Ministers consider the Reporter’s advice (and findings of PLI if necessary) and prepare a draft designation order based on it
  • Enquiry report

Step 5

  • Individuals and organisations contribute their views as part of the consultation process
  • Scottish Ministers undertake a public consultation on the draft designation order lasting at least 12 weeks
  • Public consultation document

Step 6

Scottish Ministers consider the consultation responses and revise the draft designation order. They also prepare a report of the views expressed during the consultation and how they have or have not been addressed in the revision of the designation order

Step 7

  • Scottish Ministers lay the draft designation order and consultation report before Parliament
  • Designation order and consultation report

Step 8

  • Individuals and organisations can give their views to constituency MSPs and provide evidence to Parliamentary Committees
  • Parliament considers the draft designation order and consultation report

Step 9

  • Parliament approves or rejects the draft designation order
  • A National Park is legally established

Step 10

  • Individuals on the electoral role vote in direct elections. Individuals and organisations comment on the proposed appointments of Scottish Ministers
  • A National Park Authority is established. Places are filled by direct elections, appointments by the Scottish Ministers and nominations by local authorities.


Individuals and organisations include: public agencies, local authorities, community councils, voluntary bodies and those individuals and organisations who are representative of those who work or carry out business in the area to which the proposal relates.

Rather than appoint a reporter at Step 1, Scottish Ministers may chose to undertake the consultation on the proposal themselves.

The legislation also sets out a similar approach to revising designation orders (for example to amend the boundary to increase the size of the Park area) or withdrawing them.

The statutory reporting process

The role of the Reporter is to provide information and advice on a statutory Ministerial proposal for a new National Park. The Act allows for NatureScot or any other body with the relevant expertise to undertake this role.

The reporting process requires extensive engagement and consultation with those within and nearby the selected area and covers the following matters. 

  • Whether the area proposed should be designated as a National Park and why
  • What the powers and functions of the National Park Authority for the Park should include
  • The likely costs and capital expenses of the National Park Authority
  • Other topics set out in the statutory proposal by the Minister, such as the detailed boundary of the area and representation on the National Park Authority

To illustrate this assessment, engagement, and consultation work carried out by the reporter, the following reports were produced by NatureScot during the designation of the two current National Parks in Scotland. 

Please note, these documents were produced over 20 years ago, and they are only available as pdfs. 

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Cairngorms National Park

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