South Scotland

Galloway national park financial fears persist

Loch Trool Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Cunningham said financial concerns about any new national parks being granted remained

The environment secretary has told MSPs seeking national park status for Galloway that financial concerns have "not gone away".

Roseanna Cunningham added that, if anything, they had been exacerbated.

Galloway and West Dumfries Conservative MSP Finlay Carson asked the Scottish government to consider formal consultation over the proposal.

He said there was "widespread support" for the bid, as seen at a recent conference held in the region.

However, Ms Cunningham confirmed there were no current plans to designate any new national parks in Scotland.

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Image caption Hundreds of people have signed up to discuss the bid in Galloway

She said there was an "ongoing conversation" with people from Galloway and other parts of the country about such projects.

"I remind Mr Carson of some of the comments that I have made in the past, which are that there are financial considerations in all this," she said.

"Not only have those financial considerations not gone away; if anything, they have been exacerbated."

South of Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper asked for "serious consideration" to be given to the prospect of a national park in Galloway.

Ms Cunningham told her the Scottish government was happy to engage with those campaigning for the status - as it was with others around the country.

"Any proposal would need to be assessed in the context of the real concerns around public finances and the costs that would be associated with new national parks," she added.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Cunningham said many other matters were being discussed to help boost the south of Scotland economy

Labour's Colin Smyth said it was, in many ways, "a campaign for equality across rural Scotland".

"The benefits of national parks should be not just for central and north Scotland, but all of Scotland, including the south, which is sadly all too often forgotten," he said.

However, Ms Cunningham said she would not characterise either of the two current national parks - in the Cairngorms and at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs - as being in the central belt.

"Both national parks are very rural and help the rural economy," she said.

"There are many other things being discussed in relation to the south of Scotland at the moment.

"The Scottish government is committed to setting up a development agency in the south of Scotland, which is intended to bring economic benefits to the area."

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