The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is pleased to respond to the Scottish Executive Environment Group consultation on the draft Designation Order for the Cairngorms National Park and welcomes the development of the Cairngorms National Park. The RSE is Scotland’s premier Learned Society, comprising Fellows elected on the basis of their distinction, from the full range of academic disciplines, and from industry, commerce and the professions. This response has been compiled by the General Secretary with the assistance of a number of Fellows with substantial experience of conservation and the environment.
The different aspects of the draft Designation Order are addressed below:
The Case for a National Park
As noted in our response to Scottish Natural Heritage, the general area of the Cairngorms fully meets the legislative conditions for a National Park. It is not only of National, but also International significance because of its natural and cultural heritage, incorporating as it does the most extensive continuous area of arctic-alpine ecosystems in Britain, as well as the surrounding slopes, foothills, valleys, rivers and lochs (incorporating the finest remnants of the once extensive native Scots pine forest). These areas provide habitats for a wide representation of the Scottish fauna and flora including many rare and scarce species.
The Cairngorms area also possesses a very distinctive character, being markedly different in many ways from the West Highlands, and has a well-recognised and coherent identity. It also has special needs, particularly in terms of the variety of land uses represented (and a history of conflicts between them, to the detriment of the conservation and well-being of the whole).
The Society believes, however, that the southern boundaries in the draft Designation Order are too restrictive in that they fail to include major areas of importance to biodiversity and for recreational activity, as outlined in the 'Report on the proposal for a National Park in the Cairngorms' (SNH 2001). The proposed boundary in this part of the Park excludes a number of areas of the highest natural heritage importance, including among others, the Forest of Atholl, Beinn a' Ghlo, Drumochter Hills and Glen Tilt which, while having distinctive attributes of their own, are also integral components of the Cairngorms region.
The RSE believes that in terms of deer management, access, tourism development and control, and the provision of an effective ranger service, the area will not be effectively managed and conserved without incorporating these surrounding areas. These areas, ecologically and in terms of land use and the needs both of local residents and visitors, should not be separated from the core area. The Society urges the Scottish Executive to give further consideration to the proposed area and boundaries of the National Park, with a view to returning to a configuration closer to that of the middle option in the Reporter's recommendations.
While it is unfortunate that the Designation Order does not confer full planning powers on the Park Authority, the Society welcomes the Park Authority having Park wide local planning powers. A single local plan prepared by the Park Authority, for the whole area, is essential if an integrated approach to planning and management is to be achieved.
Membership of the National Park Authority and Name of the National Park
The Society agrees with the proposals covering membership of the National Park Authority, and the procedures for setting it up. The Society also supports the proposed name of the national park.
In responding to this inquiry the Society would like to draw attention to the following Royal Society of Edinburgh responses which are of relevance to this subject: National Parks for Scotland (November 1998); People and Nature: A new Approach to SSSI Designations in Scotland (November 1998); National Scenic Areas Review (April 1999); EU policy on Biodiversity (May 1999); Study of Environmental Planning (October 1999); National Parks (Scotland) Bill (March 2000); A Proposal for a Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park (February 2001) and Proposal for a Cairngorms National Park (April 2001).