SECTION 0 - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1 In June 2005, the Environment and Rural Affairs Minister asked SNH to provide advice on coastal and marine National Parks. This report describes the work we have undertaken to fulfil this request and presents our findings on how a Park might operate and on possible areas.
2 There is support for the principle of a coastal and marine National Park from some areas and interest groups, while others expressed concerns and reservations., This range of views is reflected in the findings.
3 Scotland has a world-class coastal and marine resource. As one of a range of measures proposed by the Scottish Executive to manage all our seas and coasts better, the designation of a coastal and marine National Park could:
- enhance the care of an area of high natural and cultural heritage value;
- increase the enjoyment and understanding of these assets by people from across Scotland and elsewhere;
- deliver local social and economic benefits such as more and higher quality job, diversified and robust businesses and stronger communities;
- provide for greater involvement of local people in decision making; and
- promote innovation, good practice and more integrated approaches to sustainable development applicable throughout Scotland.
Underpinning this approach will be the better planning and management of the area and the activities that take place within it. In particular, a Park should provide a model of how fisheries can be managed better to ensure that biodiversity as well as the livelihoods of local fishermen can be sustained.
4 Scottish Ministers have made a commitment to establish a National Park in 2008 under the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000. We recommend that the National Park Authority established to manage this area focuses initially on planning and enabling practical work to be delivered, using its basic powers and functions and drawing on modest programme expenditure. Following the preparation of a Park Plan, further consideration should be given to any regulatory powers that the Authority may need. In this way, the concept of a coastal and marine National Park can grow incrementally, having built consensus and good will.
5 The governance arrangements can only be considered for a Park once an area is selected, though common principles should include the following:
- the Park Board should comprise directly elected community representatives, local authority nominations and national appointments;
- the majority of individuals on the Board should live or work within the Park;
- national appointees should have relevant experience and expertise and not represent specific interest groups;
- local advisory groups can complement the formal governance of the Park with a strong commitment from the Park to build up capacity for local people to engage actively in the planning and management of the area.
- The Solway Firth;
- Argyll Islands and Coast;
- Ardnamurchan, Small Isles, and South Skye coast;
- North Skye Coast and Wester Ross; and
- North Uist, Sound of Harris, Harris and South Lewis.
If taken forward, further work will be required to refine these areas and to consider in detail their seaward and terrestrial extent and specific boundary.
7 The assessment work undertaken has also highlighted that a number of other places could also benefit from enhanced conservation and resource management effort, but for which the current National Park mechanism is less appropriate. For small areas, further consideration could be given to a new form of locally-led management initiative or marine reserve.
8 SNH was not asked to undertake a formal consultation as part of this work, but considerable effort was made to seek views. A national stakeholder group of 25 organisations was established to discuss key issues and nearly 150 people from over 90 organisations attended two national seminars. We wrote to over 300 stakeholders, receiving over 100 comments in writing and through an internet message board. Throughout the process, information on National Parks and working papers discussed by the stakeholder group have been publicly available on the SNH website.
9 Key themes to emerge from stakeholders were as follows.
- There is support for the principle of a coastal and marine National Park, with specific expressions of interest from Argyll and Bute and Dumfries and Galloway Councils, and also the community on Fair Isle.
- Some stakeholders had reservations and opposition to Park proposals was expressed, notably from some fishing groups and other businesses. Despite the positive role of Scotland’s National Parks in promoting sustainable development, these stakeholders fear that a Park would impose further bureaucracy, remove local decision-making and restrict future development.
- In the absence of specific proposals or practice, stakeholders also queried the added value of a coastal and marine national park and what it would deliver that could not be realised through other mechanisms.
10 Whichever areas Ministers now decide should be the
leading candidates, it will be vital that local communities are given
the resources, information and time to consider the proposals.