LOCH Lomond and The Trossachs National Park has been branded an “embarrassment to Scotland” after one of its leading members was forced to resign from the park board for failing to declare shares in a £200 million gold mining company.

Owen McKee, who bought shares in the Australian company Scotgold for £12,000 after it was given permission to dig for gold at Cononish near Tyndrum in the park, has triggered a by-election next month by standing down as an elected member of the board.

He had previously sold his shares and resigned as vice-convener and chair of the planning committee, but remained a member of both the board and the committee.

Our sister paper the Sunday Herald revealed last month that McKee breached the park’s code of conduct by failing to declare his shareholding at 15 meetings over more than two years. It has emerged that days after the story appeared, he wrote a letter resigning from the park board “in the light of recent media coverage”.

Dave Morris, the former director of Ramblers Scotland, described McKee’s resignation as “inevitable” after his mistakes were exposed. “It is unlikely to be the last resignation as the board’s reputation continues to spiral downwards,” he claimed. “Our national parks were supposed to demonstrate best practice, but instead in Loch Lomond we have never-ending lessons in leadership failure. It is an embarrassment to Scotland.”

McKee accepted that he had made a “serious misjudgement”, adding: “I am most distressed that my own personal error of judgement has attracted completely undeserved criticism of the national park authority.”

His resignation was accepted by the park convener, Linda McKay. Failing to declare the Scotgold shares “was a serious breach of our code of conduct,” she said.

She told him: “I was glad that you recognised this, at the time, by stepping down from your board positions and selling your shares despite facing financial losses as a result. In the light of the media attention your actions have attracted, I understand why you now feel the need to take the further step of resigning from the board.”

The mountaineering campaigner Nick Kempe has lodged two complaints to Bill Thomson, the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland. “The government needs to sort out the governance of this national park where the personal interests of board members comes before the public interest,” he said.

The park authority blamed the “barrage of criticism” on personal objections to a proposed camping ban, which was now going ahead after comprehensive consultations.

“It is worth remembering that Owen McKee was one individual on a board of 17 and he has acknowledged his error of judgement by resigning,” said a park spokeswoman.