The case for national park status

Ruins of Cessford Castle near Kelso
Ruins of Cessford Castle near Kelso

A compelling case has been made for the creation of a Scottish Borders National Park to help alleviate the “economic fragility” of the area.

An independent feasibility study, prepared by Duncan Bryden Associates, highlights how a national park designation would regenerate the regions, towns and villages plus safeguard its natural and cultural heritage.

The report’s lead author, Duncan Bryden, called the proposal ‘A strategic investment for Scotland’ emphasising that the benefits would radiate across the whole region and not just the part of the Borders included in the national park area.

Improving the Borders’ image and encouraging people to ‘believe in the Borders’ is the key and campaign leader Jane Bower said: “This report makes fascinating reading, irrespective of whether your first inclination is for or against the idea of using the national park brand to put the Scottish Borders on the world map.

“The Borders has so much to offer visitors but very, very few people think of us as a tourist destination, and far too many people simply travel through the region to get to other scenic parts of Scotland because they do not know about the Borders’ incredible history and culture.

“Our unique selling point is our landscape: not only is it steeped in history, culture and tradition, it is a working landscape continually being shaped by people of all ages who know and celebrate their Borders history.

“Campaign members have always felt that a national park would be right for the Borders, but we are delighted that this independent examination has backed up our view with incontrovertible facts and figures, and expert analysis, to make a compelling case for creating Scotland’s third national park here.

“The report explains how Scottish legislation provides scope to tailor a new national park to meet local needs, and to ensure strong local control. Indeed, the National Park Authority that would run a Scottish Borders National Park could – and the campaign team believes should – have a built-in local majority in accordance with the legislation, as well as very considerable flexibility to tailor the project to the Borders’ particular and most pressing needs. Contrary to popular belief, national park powers are actually quite limited.”

Jane continued: “National park status could also benefit our major industries like farming, forestry and high-end textiles.

“Farming subsidies are likely to freeze or reduce in size from 2020 onwards, grants and other payments for forestry and renewable developments are likely to change, and many commentators believe that future payments will be strongly linked to environmental stewardship.

“Protected area designations may provide a comparative advantage for land managers located within national park boundaries, in which case any new NPA might be well placed to help groups of farmers and landowners.”

The report is now with Scottish Borders Council officials and councillors for consideration and the Scottish Government will have the final say as to whether the country’s third national park should be in the Borders. The Scottish government has indicated that it will give serious consideration to any proposal that has the backing of the relevant local authority.