6. Criterion 4: Visitor management and experience
Chapter 5 examines respondents’ views on Criterion 4, which includes four components. This criteria asks whether visitor management and experience should be considered when assessing nominations for new National Parks. The criterion’s components examine how proposed national parks would consider visitor enjoyment, education, understanding of nature and cultural heritage, as well as park management and infrastructure, and how the park would facilitate access to nature for the people of Scotland.
Views on the criterion
Q7. Do you agree that ‘visitor management and experience’ should be a criterion for assessing nominations for new National Parks? If you disagree, please give reasons for your answer.
|n=||% Agree||% Disagree||% Don’t know|
|All answering (%)||155||90||6||5|
|- Interest organisations / Stakeholders||14||100||0||0|
|- Public sector bodies||10||100||0||0|
|- Built Environment / Land management||3||100||0||0|
A criterion for visitor management and experience was supported by 90% of those answering Q7, making this the third highest rated of the seven criteria. All organisations agreed with this criterion, as did 87% of individuals.
Q7 received 26 open responses, some of which were positive. Respondents agreed that visitor management and experience should be a criterion for assessing nominations for new National Parks. They stressed that this should consider how the area would manage increased visitor numbers, but also how a park will ensure visitors enjoy the spaces and understand the area's history and cultural heritage.
“We agree with this criterion because it allows an area bidding for a National Park designation to explain how they will manage visitor numbers where they are already high, or conversely, allow an area to explain how visitors will be attracted to an area which they currently overlook.” – John Muir Trust
“A component that takes into consideration how the National Park designation will enhance opportunities for enjoyment, recreation and understanding of the area’s natural and cultural heritage is essential to the appraisal of any proposed National Park.” - ScottishPower Renewables
Other respondents supported visitor management strategies, highlighting the potential damage increased traffic could cause to the local environment, wildlife and farms.
Reasons for disagreement
Respondents who disagreed with the criterion and provided a reason suggested that visitor management had not been effective in the other National Parks in Scotland, as described in the analysis of Criterion 1.
Views on the components
Q8. Do you agree with the components of criterion 4 (visitor management and experience)? If you disagree, please give reasons for your answer.
|All answering for each component:||n=||% Agree||% Disagree||% Don’t know|
|Component 1: How would National Park designation enhance opportunities for enjoyment, recreation and understanding of the area’s natural and cultural heritage?||154||90||6||4|
|Component 2: How would National Park designation support visitor management in the area?||154||88||6||6|
|Component 3: How could National Park designation support current and potential future transport infrastructure in and around the proposed area?||154||86||6||8|
|Component 4: How could National Park designation support access to nature for Scotland’s people?||155||87||8||5|
There was broad support for each of the four components of Criterion 4, ranging from 86% for Component 3 to 90% for Component 1. Both individuals and organisations expressed their support, though there were some small variations in organisation support. Components 1 and 2 were supported by 93% and 96% of organisations respectively. However, support was slightly lower for Components 3 (85%) and 4 (82%). In these latter two instances, a few organisations either disagreed or were unsure of the components, but no single organisation or organisation type consistently expressed a concern.
There were 41 open text comments in response to Q8.
Component 1: How would National Park designation enhance opportunities for enjoyment, recreation and understanding of the area’s natural and cultural heritage?
Some respondents agreed with Component 1, but suggested further considerations or amendments to the wording. These included consideration of:
- An area’s contribution to a just transition to net zero.
- Commitment to nature recovery.
- The value a place has in changing perceptions or challenging behaviours to support future sustainability.
- How a new national park will encourage visitors to understand the interaction between the built and natural landscapes.
Component 2: How would National Park designation support visitor management in the area?
Only a few respondents provided feedback on Component 2. While Highland Council noted their appreciation of the inclusion of the component and highlighted its importance in the assessment process, an individual and Perth and Kinross Council asked for explicit instruction about how the area would manage increased visitors to be included in the language of the component.
Component 3: How could National Park designation support current and potential future transport infrastructure in and around the proposed area?
Many respondents had comments about Component 3. While most agreed with the component, some suggested clarifications or additions, such as an emphasis on green or eco transport infrastructure and education for all visitors on how to safely and sustainably enjoy and engage with the natural environment.
“A key driver for many will be 'visitor management' with some areas of Scotland under significant pressure creating negative visitor experiences. Fortunately in most of [Southwest] Scotland this is not such an issue and actually opens up an opportunity to demonstrate how by instigating the right infrastructure and visitor management from the outset the visitor experience can be enhanced in a way that brings about genuine community wealth building opportunities. A key aspect of this must be around education for all ages in how to experience the rural environment in safe and sustainable way.” - Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere
Other suggested considerations included an emphasis on creating good pathways and travel routes throughout the park and investment in ranger services.
“We agree that transport infrastructure is of importance. However, so are other aspects of infrastructure for supporting visitor management (e.g. public conveniences, footpaths, signage), and emerging infrastructure (e.g. high speed mobile broadband across rural areas which will enhance visitor experience and Park management).” - James Hutton Institute
The Scottish Rewilding Alliance disagreed and highlighted that consideration should be given to the impact of future transport infrastructure on nature. They suggested mitigating new developments with ecoducts or co-locating railway tracks with roads to minimise disruption to the wildlife and natural landscape.
“Ecological connectivity is a crucial factor in the recovery of nature. Where the connectivity of landscapes is interrupted by human infrastructure, this can prevent the free movement of species, destroy habitats, create pollution and cause wildlife casualties. Therefore, when considering the current and potential future transport infrastructure that a National Park designation might support, the effect on nature throughout the potential park area should also be considered alongside equitable access for residents and visitors. This might include adding to existing infrastructure corridors rather than creating new ones - by co-locating new railway tracks with roads, for example. It could also include mitigating the effect of existing and new infrastructure through initiatives like ecoducts.” - Scottish Rewilding Alliance
Component 4: How could National Park designation support access to nature for Scotland’s people?
A few respondents suggested that access to nature should include ways to address inequalities, emphasising that inclusion all be considered alongside this component. A few others noted that cultural heritage should be included in this component.
Given the emphasis that some placed on the importance of nature, a few respondents argued that Component 4 should be prioritised as Component 1 under this criterion.
A small number of respondents highlighted the importance of understanding where funding for possible major infrastructure changes would come from.
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