Plans to create a Galloway National Park have moved a step closer following a recent meeting in Edinburgh.
Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, has confirmed she will visit Galloway to discuss the proposal, which is being promoted by Galloway National Park Association.
The minister’s pledge came after talks with representatives of the GNPA, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and local MSPs Emma Harper (SNP), Finlay Carson (Con) and Colin Smyth (Lab).
Dame Barbara Kelly, the GNPA’s president and chair, welcomed the minister’s assurance that the case would be considered carefully.
She said: “We described the overwhelmingly positive response to the extensive engagement work that the association has done over the past two years.
“We recognise the difficulties that any government would have in the current financial climate and that this is just the start of a process of assessment that will, we hope, culminate in Galloway becoming Scotland’s third national park.”
Emma Harper praised GNPA members for being “coherent, respectful and diligent” in their campaigning efforts.
She said: “The proposal for a Galloway National Park appears to be a positive step which should be given further consideration by the Scottish Government for our Bonnie Gallowa’ Region.
“I look forward to seeing further economic and social arguments in favour of its benefits in order to clear some of the uncertainty that has been brought to my attention from constituents over the potential running costs of a national park.”
Finlay Carson said: “The association has done as it was asked: demonstrated widespread support for national park status across the local community.”
Noting that it is not Scottish Government policy to support new national parks, Colin Smyth hoped the discussion with the minister would lead to a change of heart.
He said: “I have no doubt that if the government properly considers the plans, ministers will understand that, rather than it being a financial burden, it will bring in significant income to the region through a rise in visitor numbers.
“There is real momentum behind the campaign and growing public support, so we need to keep that going and ultimately secure Government support so that the south of Scotland isn’t treated any differently than the north, which has two national parks.”