Farmer Focus: National park proposal leaves us worried

The unexpected proposal for our area to be considered for a new national park has initiated concern among locals this week.

With all the media attention around the farmers protesting outside the offices of the Cairngorms National Park Authority about rewilding, this is especially relevant.   

Last week, we were informed, with just a few days’ notice, of a public drop-in session regarding our area being put forward for a national park bid.

We were disheartened to hear the deadline for the completion of the local survey was just over a week later.

See also: Search for new Scottish national park sparks farmer concern

About the author

David Girvan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer David Girvan and family run a 140-cow Stabiliser herd and wool-shedding crossbred ewes on a 3,000ha upland farm west of Inverness. Finished stock are sent to Woodheads. Diversifications include pumpkin picking, wind turbines and a biomass boiler.
Read more articles by David Girvan

This consultation process has come from the Scottish government’s call for nominations.

It has resulted in our inclusion in a neighbouring community council’s bid, as well as a further bid, put forward by a group of individuals in a village roughly an hour’s drive away.

While the idea of a national park comes with the promise of increased visitor numbers and potential access to grants for environmental projects, there is a fear of unwarranted red tape and heightened planning issues.

There are also worries around future growth of businesses not aligned with the perceived ideals of such a scheme.

The hospitality sector in Drumnadrochit – a crucial part of the village’s economy – already grapples with the influx of visitors in the summer months.

Recruiting staff in the height of summer is already a strain. The prospect of more visitors exacerbates existing challenges, adding an extra layer of concern for businesses already facing difficulties.

At this point, with such little time, assessing the balance for the entire community is tricky.

While potential benefits are recognised, the lack of concrete information about the proposal hampers the community’s ability to make informed decisions.

Residents are to vote for or against, despite being given no information about how the national park would be structured and how it might impact life.

Worryingly, there appears to be a lack of a transparent external audit of the findings of the handful of public consultations carried out.

We aren’t the only ones affected, but it’s another nail in the coffin for rural business.

Not only do we face the uncertainty of changes in farm subsidies, but many areas in Scotland are now unsettled with a looming national park bid. For or against, it’s unsettling.