Talks aim to take park bid forward
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