There is no doubt that Scotland is a beautiful place to live and work, and a welcoming place for tourists.
Here in Galloway, we are often seen as the hidden part of Scotland, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and Instagram hotspots of the Highlands.
However, with this comes the frustration of centralized government and as a region we are often overlooked, underappreciated and under-invested.
See also: Landowners frustrated with protected landscape proposals
There has been a long local campaign to change this, which would see a large swath of Dumfries and Galloway designated as a national park – the third in Scotland and the 16th in the UK.
At first glance, a national park for Galloway might be seen as long overdue.
But we really need to question the risk this poses to our infrastructure, the people who already live here, and the long-term viability of strong communities.
One only has to look at the Highlands to see how an increase in tourist numbers, as a result of Route 500, is draining human resources, putting pressure on car parks and vacation accommodations, and driving a move to more homes. holidays and fewer permanent residents.
Yes, the economy benefits during the high season, but what effect does this have on the region for the rest of the year?
Plans for a new national park moved forward when, as part of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Green Party, ‘Green Skills’ Minister Lorna Slater opened a consultation to get views on the where a new park should be, and what it should look like.
In her statement releasing the consultation, Ms. Slater discussed the environmental and biodiversity benefits, and the opportunities for visitors to enjoy our beautiful region.
But people can already visit Dumfries and Galloway to enjoy the scenery, with our region investing in many walking routes, cycle routes and tourist attractions.
Last weekend I joined a friend for a mountain bike ride in Galloway Forest Park, followed by wild camping on the shores of Luce Bay.
These areas are all supported by strong economic models, with a desire to bring income to the local economy, create jobs and support sectors to be sustainable in the long term, including agriculture.
So why do we need a national park to replace what is already so successful? And if so, why is there no mention of business, supporting local people or economic growth in Ms. Slater’s statement?
We need to celebrate what Galloway already offers and invest in strong marketing campaigns, such as those run by the South West Tourism Alliance.
The SNP has a responsibility to spend our tax dollars for the maximum benefit of Scottish communities.
At a time when the purse strings will tighten for many households, throwing money at a national park, based on decisions made by people who don’t understand our region, simply lacks strategic direction. .
Frankly, it feels like the national government is creating rural theme parks for urban residents, disregarding those in rural areas – again.