At 229 square miles, Galloway Forest Park in Southern Scotland can already lay claim to being the largest forest area in the United Kingdom.
But it seems The Scottish Campaign for National Parks has a higher status in sight. With over 800,000 visitors a year exploring the hills and forested valleys of this beautiful area of undisturbed woodland, National Park Status would certainly make sense.
“[National Parks] are the outstanding international brand for special places – it is the ultimate quality mark, is how I would put it,”
said the group’s chair John Thomson to the BBC.
Plans in Motion
The SCNP gathered 300 delegates together for a conference discussing the issue in November 2018, and this week campaign leaders met with Conservative Rural Affairs minister Mairi Gougeon to bring the proposal forward a further step. The main case for the new status is based around tourism and economics. National Park status guarantees extra funding for the area, which can be used to expand facilities and activities for visitor – thus hopefully bringing in more footfall and future revenue.
Dark Sky Attractions
Just a few businesses, schemes and natural attractions that bring visitors to the area already include:
- Visitor Centres at Glen Trool, Kirroughtree, and Clatteringshaws
- Hill Walking, Trails and Treks
- Ice and Rock Climbing
- Mountain Bike Trails
- The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
With the increased funding from National Park status, businesses and local people could expand their range of services to cater to people flocking to the park to enjoy its natural bounties. That includes local hoteliers and publicans and equipment hire shops as well as more employment opportunities for tour guides, park rangers, builders and more. Whilst the economic case is a strong one, the Government has yet to meaningfully commit to the scheme beyond preliminary discussions.
A Considered Case
“What I really am keen to do today is to take away the proposal and properly consider that before I am able to commit to anything else or to commit to anything further,” said Minister Gougeon. Last year the Government repeatedly stated that they would not be considering adding a third National Park to join The Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
Although, public support for the project is high and Governments do often change their mind. At the moment any new National Park would need to approve by the Scottish Government first and foremost, although Westminster may be able to lend weight to any arguments for it. In the past, there have been concerns expressed about the financial viability of National Parks by the ruling Scottish National Party – although Galloway’s campaigners staunchly dispute these findings.
As it goes, Galloway Forest is one of the most profitable forested areas of the UK already, as dozens of miles of woodland are set away for sustainable logging. In fact, the region produces some of the most timber in the UK, up to 500,000 tonnes a year. So maybe Galloway doesn’t need National Park status – but as fans of National Parks the world over, we would happy to see another great Park added to the UK’s existing list.