THE local community bid to secure national park status for Harris received unanimous support at the Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks, held in Stirling on Friday, April 15.
Duncan Macpherson of the Isle of Harris National Park Study Group explained the background to the proposal at the well attended AGM of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) and those present were impressed with the careful and balanced process the group had gone through to ensure the local community could weigh up the pros and cons of national park status before over 70% voted in favour in a referendum in February 2009.
The Harris community were encouraged to look at the option of a national park by the former Environment Minister, Mike Russell, who indicated if there was strong local community support, he would consider any proposal to establish Scotland’s first island-based national park.
The community has since received two major setbacks in their efforts to secure national park status when the local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, decided to bat it back to the Government Minister for decision and Roseanna Cunningham, as Minister, failed to back local residents wishes by insisting that there must be local authority support.
Commenting on the proposal, Bill McDermott, Chairman of SCNP, said:”The forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections provides an opportunity for the Isle of Harris National Park Study Group, and bodies such as ours, to press home the case for national park status to be seriously considered.
“At our recent meeting we saw no reason why the incoming Government couldn’t at least begin the process of investigating the possibility of putting a designation in place for this special corner of Scotland.
“There is clearly strong community support for the creation of Scotland’s third national park and a feasibility study showed a strong economic case for such a development.”
He added: “With the notable exception of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, in the entire 60 year history of the national park movement in the UK, no national parks have been established without opposition from local authorities and it is therefore no surprise Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is following a similar path. “This is very regrettable given the overwhelming support locally to create what would undoubtedly be a very welcome and unique addition to the family of national parks around the world.”