Talks aim to take park bid for­ward

The Galloway News - - HARDGATE PRIMARY - STEPHEN NOR­RIS

The Gal­loway Na­tional Park As­so­ci­a­tion has se­cured top level talks with the Scot­tish Govern­ment at Holy­rood.

GNPA rep­re­sen­ta­tives are sched­uled to meet ru­ral af­fairs and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Mairi Gougeon on Jan­uary 15.

The del­e­ga­tion will present ev­i­dence to Ms Gougeon de­tail­ing wide­spread sup­port for the park plan.

Sub­mis­sions will in­clude 432 re­sponses from a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion held between Fe­bru­ary and De­cem­ber.

And a 370– strong pe­ti­tion col­lected by Cas­tle Dou­glas High School pupils will be cited as proof of youth sup­port.

GNPA trustee Rob Lu­cas told the News: “We want to meet with Mairi Gougeon to see what her view is.

“Two years ago the govern­ment’s po­si­tion was they they had no plans for any more na­tional parks.

“But af­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon said the govern­ment would look care­fully at our pro­posal there was a sig­nif­i­cant shift.

“Up un­til we had that change in tune it seemed it didn’t mat­ter what we did.

“So now we are go­ing to have a con­ver­sa­tion with Mairi Gougeon about how we best take the process for­ward. That’s a lot dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous po­si­tion.”

Mr Lu­cas said the GNPA would press the min­is­ter for a full pub­lic de­bate on the pro­posal.

Such a move would for­malise govern­ment in­volve­ment in as­sess­ing whether a Gal­loway Na­tional Park would work.

Mr Lu­cas said: “Our aim is for the govern­ment to an­nounce a for­mal con­sul­ta­tion as the next stage of the process.

“Once that hap­pens then they have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take it for­ward.

“They would look at defin­ing the park bound­aries and come up with op­tions for man­age­ment of the park.”

Mr Lu­cas added: “Our feed­back shows sup­port was even across the whole of Gal­loway and south­ern Ayr­shire.

“We talked to peo­ple in Dailly and nearby vil­lages.

“And peo­ple there felt they had more in com­mon with Gal­loway to the south than the north.

“We recog­nise the pro­posed park is large. But the whole area would get a wide so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fit.”

Mr Lu­cas said it was im­por­tant to have “fur­ther con­ver­sa­tions” with forestry and farm­ing in­ter­ests.

“That is sim­ply so they can bet­ter un­der­stand what a na­tional park is,” he said.

First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon told lo­cal MSP Fin­lay Carson at Holy­rood last month she “un­der­stood and ap­pre­ci­ated” ar­gu­ments for a Gal­loway Na­tional Park.

She vowed: “We want to give full con­sid­er­a­tion to the pro­posal.

“I am happy to ask the rel­e­vant min­is­ter to engage with the mem­ber and oth­ers who have an in­ter­est on how we can take the mat­ter for­ward prop­erly.”

The coun­cil has writ­ten to the Scot­tish Govern­ment reaf­firm­ing its sup­port.

It is also seek­ing “clear pol­icy di­rec­tion” on next steps to­wards es­tab­lish­ing the park.

Cam­paigner Gal­loway Na­tional Park As­so­ci­a­tion trustee Rob Lu­cas

Ru­ral min­is­ter Mairi Gougeon

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