THE next stage of the Scottish Government’s commitment to establish at least one new national park in the lifetime of the current parliament – by spring 2026 – began with the launch of a consultation yesterday.

The stakeholder consultation, led by NatureScot, is inviting contributions which will help define how a new national park will protect and restore nature, tackle climate change and promote sustainable land use.

It follows on from The Future for National Parks in Scotland online discussion that launched earlier this year by the Scottish Government.

It is nearly 20 years since the first two national parks were created in Scotland. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park was established in 2002 and the Cairngorms National Park in 2003.

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NatureScot has already established a national stakeholder advisory group to bring together a wide range of organisations and sectors.

Now further key stakeholders and interest groups from local authorities, visitor destination groups, conservation, planning and education bodies are being invited to contribute to the new consultation about the role of Scotland’s national parks and the criteria for selecting a new one. Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “Our national parks do essential work to restore our natural environment, tackle the climate crisis, help manage facilities for visitors, promote responsible access and develop sustainable communities.

“That is why we are committed to establishing at least one new national park in Scotland by the end of this parliamentary session in 2026.

“Earlier this year, I launched a national discussion to understand what the public value most about our national parks and to seek views on what they should be delivering for Scotland, its communities and its visitors.

“For the next stage in the process, NatureScot will lead an online public consultation and host stakeholder meetings to give everyone the opportunity to feed in their views and ideas. NatureScot will also work with partners to engage young people, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, including through bespoke surveys and workshops.

“The consultation will lead to a transparent means of assessing candidate national parks and will inform our strategy for supporting our parks to do more for local communities, visitors and nature.”

NatureScot chief executive, Francesca Osowska said: “Our ambition for a new national park is that it will drive the transformation needed to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, helping to halt nature loss by 2030 and restore nature on a landscape scale by 2045.

“The scenery and wildlife of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and Cairngorms are some of the best in Scotland and are wonderful places to enjoy the outdoors. It’s exciting to imagine that potential for another beautiful area to become a national park.

“National park status helps to safeguard and enhance the special qualities of these areas, balancing the needs of people, landscape and nature. The existing locations are some of the most heavily visited areas in the country.

“The park authorities help to coordinate work to benefit the area in the long term, with local people being more involved in these decisions.”

Steve Micklewright, convener of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and chief executive of Trees for Life, added: “This welcome public consultation is a golden opportunity to place nature recovery and rewilding front and centre as priorities for our national parks – so these important places can lead the way in tackling the nature and climate crises while creating all sorts of new nature-based economic opportunities.”