ISSUED BY NFU SCOTLAND JOINTLY WITH SCOTTISH LAND ANDS ESTATES
NFU Scotland (NFUS) and Scottish Land & Estates have welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s decision to vote down proposals to extend the Pentland Hills Regional Park.
Representing farmers and land managers, both organisations had highlighted fears that the uncosted plans would lead to an unfair and unnecessary burden on those with land-based businesses in the area.
The proposals, brought forward in a Scottish Parliamentary Private Members’ Bill put forward by Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame, proposed to extend the size of the Pentland Hills Regional Park by over 100 per cent to include the substantive Pentland Hills range.
During the debate, Ms Grahame argued that her Bill simply proposed to redraw a line on a map that would take in the full Pentland Hills range, and argued that it would not change access rights, create more restricting planning conditions, or require a budget to be identified.
However, NFU Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates contend that the Bill had completely overlooked the obvious funding requirements that an extended Park would require – a view that was supported by opposition MSPs, as well as Scottish Government. This is particularly important given the increasing financial strain the current Park is under and with local authorities warning that additional funding would not be forecast in future budgets.
Referencing a briefing that was prepared by NFUS and Scottish Land & Estates ahead of the debate, the Minister for the Environment, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, stated that she was unable to support the Bill because it “created expectations” that were extremely unlikely to be fulfilled. She added that it was within the gift of local authorities to create new regional parks or make adjustments to the boundary of existing parks if they identified need for such action.
Kerry Barr, Regional Manager at NFU Scotland, commented: “Whilst on a map it might make sense to extend the Regional Park to cover the entire Pentland Hills Park range, as the debate highlighted an extended Park would require responsibility and resources, neither of which can be provided by the managing authorities nor the farmers and custodians of the land within the Pentland Hills Regional Park.
“NFU Scotland is delighted that MSPs have listened to these valid concerns and voted against this Bill progressing further. We consider now to be a timely opportunity to begin discussions on the opportunities and future of the existing Park and look forward to engaging with Christine Grahame MSP as part of this process.”
Anne Gray, Policy Officer with Scottish Land & Estates said: “Christine Grahame’s proposal appeared to put the cart before the horse. We engaged with Ms Grahame from the outset, making it clear that we would need to see a full feasibility study before we could properly consider whether her proposal could be supported. Such a study has never been brought forward and, indeed, the evidence from those that live, work and have administrative responsibly for the area concerned, is that there was very little support for the move.”