National discussion on the future of National Parks
In 2022, The Scottish Government launched a public consultation on the future for National Parks in Scotland. This consultation sought views and ideas on the role that National Parks can play in helping to restore nature, tackle climate change, promote sustainable land use and support public and community wellbeing.
Following this, NatureScot was asked to lead a further public consultation to provide advice to Scottish Ministers. This has involved engaging with a wide range of stakeholders. NatureScot's advice includes:
- recommendations for amendments to existing legislation regarding the role of National Parks in Scotland.
- recommendations for the nomination process and selection criteria for new National Parks in Scotland.
This guidance document relates only to the process for the nomination and selection of new National Park(s) in Scotland. There is further information including a consultation on proposed amendments to the National Parks legislation available on our website.
After thorough consideration of NatureScot's advice, draft criteria for the appraisal framework were publicly consulted on from May to August 2023. A report has been published analysing the consultation responses.
Overall the consultation demonstrated a high level of support for the proposed selection criteria and the analysis of these responses has informed the final appraisal framework and selection criteria.
Process for selecting new National Park(s)
We have received expressions of interest for new National Parks from a number of communities and organisations across Scotland. A fair and transparent nomination and appraisal process is therefore required to determine the area or areas to be taken forward to designation.
Nominating groups are required to develop and submit their proposal using a standard nominations form. The appraisal framework with broad selection criteria will be used to help assess nominations and to inform the decision of Scottish Ministers on the candidate area(s) (the 'National Park proposals') to be progressed under the National Park (Scotland) Act 2000 ('the 2000 Act').
As outlined in the appraisal framework at Annex A, the broad selection criteria that will be used to help assess nominations for new National Parks are:
- outstanding national importance
- size, character and coherence
- meeting the special needs of the area
- strategic contribution
- visitor management and tourism
- local support
Separately, compatibility with the application of regulatory frameworks surrounding existing and planned projects and activities for the area will be considered as part of the appraisal process.The 2000 Act allows for the possible designation of land-based National Parks and coastal and marine National Parks.
All areas of Scotland are eligible to submit nominations to become a new National Park (including those that have current or potential onshore wind developments). To ensure any National Park addresses the climate emergency and supports progressive development, we will develop new bespoke planning policy on onshore wind to be applied in new National Parks. This means that a new National Park will be treated differently to existing National Parks with respect to NPF4 policy for onshore wind.
The nomination and appraisal process and timeline is set out below and in image 1 contained in Annex : New National Park(s) project – timeline and process.
October 2023 – February 2024
- launch of nominations process for new National Parks – early October 2023
- confirmation of offer of support to nominating groups
- deadline for nominations – Thursday 29 February 2024
- appraisal of nominations
- decision and announcement by Scottish Ministers of area(s) to be progressed as 'National Park proposal(s)'
- reporter Investigation commences
Following the appraisal process, subject to at least one nomination being selected to proceed as a National Park proposal, Ministers expect to appoint a reporter to undertake an investigation and report to them on the proposal(s).
In line with the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 ('the Act'), it is anticipated that Ministers will require NatureScot to take on the role of reporter.
If Scottish Ministers require such an investigation and a report on the National Park proposal(s), there is a legal process set out in section 3 of the Act that must be followed. The reporter is required to (1) send the proposal to every local authority that has an area or part of an area within which the proposal relates; (2) publicise the proposal; (3) conduct the investigation including consulting local authorities, community councils and people who live, work or carry on business within the proposed area and such other persons the reporter thinks fit on the proposal and (4) provide a recommendation to Ministers on the following matters:
(a) the area which it is proposed should be designated as a National Park,
(b) the desirability of designating the area in question (with or without modifications) as a National Park,
(c) the functions which it is proposed the National Park authority for the Park should exercise,
(d) the likely annual costs and capital expenses of the authority in exercising its functions,
(e) such other matters relating to the proposal as the requirement may specify.
The reporter's report will be published by Ministers and laid before Parliament upon completion.
Process for designating new National Park(s)
Following the publication of the report on the National Park proposal(s), Scottish Ministers may decide to make a "designation order" following the process set out in the Act (sections 6-7).
This will include sending a copy of the draft designation order to every local authority within the proposed area, laying the proposed draft order before parliament, publicising the draft order and holding a further phase of consultation on the draft order.
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