After three months of informal consultation and over 500 individual responses, we've heard your views on everything from protecting endangered species to tackling climate change, securing more affordable housing and green public transport options, and providing meaningful jobs for the next generation of Cairngorms residents. Thank you to all of those who have already contributed to the consultation. We have used these views to help shape a draft plan, which will now be consulted on until 17 December 2021.
Responses have been many and varied, but one thing that is abundantly clear is that there has never been a more important to time to look at the future management of the Cairngorms National Park. The recovery from Covid-19, combined with the climate emergency and nature crisis, means that we need to look for new ways to address key issues in the Cairngorms. There is an opportunity for the Cairngorms National Park to lead the way in reaching net zero carbon emissions as fairly as possible, using nature-based and sustainable approaches to tackle the climate emergency, and putting people at the heart of decision-making.
The Cairngorms is the UK’s largest national park at 4,528 sq km (6% of Scotland's land mass) and is home to one-quarter of the UK’s rare and endangered species. Around 18,000 people live in the Park across the areas of Aberdeenshire, Angus, Highland, Moray, Perth and Kinross, with two million visitors enjoying this special place every year.
The National Park has four distinct aims as set out by Parliament:
These aims are to be pursued collectively. However, if there is conflict between the first aim and any of the others, greater weight is given to the first aim (as set out in Section 9.6 of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000). This helps ensure conservation of the natural and cultural heritage underpins the economic, social and recreation value of the Cairngorms National Park.
The Partnership Plan embeds this approach in the strategy for the National Park that is approved by Ministers and sets the framework for all public bodies that work within the Cairngorms, from NatureScot and Local Authorities to Transport Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It is also supported and delivered by a range of private and voluntary organisations.
The National Park Partnership Plan sets out how all those with a responsibility for the Park will co-ordinate their work to tackle the most important issues. In particular, this plan:
The document is arranged in three sections: Nature, People and Place. In each section we set out long-term objectives up to 2045 (the year Scottish Government has committed to achieving net zero), and these are supported by a set of policies for the next five years, which are set out in our Policies section. The Partnership Plan is in turn underpinned by a series of action plans, which are set out in our Actions section. You can explore each of these sections on this website, or alternatively you can request a hard copy by emailing email@example.com or calling +44 (0) 1479 873 535.
We are aware that individuals reading the Partnership Plan will have different priorities; however, we would encourage you to read the plan as a whole to see how the four aims of the National Park will be delivered collectively. As an example:
To enable the target for peatland restoration to be met there will need to be a change to deer management in the Park. To enable the scale of peatland restoration to be delivered we will need to increase investment in skills and training of people to deliver this work, which in turn will be an opportunity for economic diversification within the Cairngorms economy. Finally, if we are going to have local contractors who undertake this work, we will need to have the right level of affordable housing that allows people to live and work in the area. In this way, all the long term objectives are interrelated, as the diagram below illustrates:
There have been significant changes in the policy landscape since the last Partnership Plan was published in 2017. A climate emergency and nature crisis have been declared, we have left the European Union and its policy framework, the Covid-19 pandemic and our collective need to recover from its impacts is at the forefront of policy discussion. And there is a desire to move to an economy that works for everyone, with citizen well-being at its heart.
Policies relevant to each of the long-term outcomes and objectives in this document are set out in the Policies section, but as a whole this is guided by the National Performance Framework and by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Finally, there will be changes to policy over the coming year that will be taken account of as the plan is developed. This includes the outputs from the UN climate change conference COP26 and the UN biodiversity conference COP15, National Planning Framework 4, Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 and other national policy developments.
The Cairngorms National Park also has a significant role to play in delivering the policy ambitions of Scottish Government. This is focused on Scotland being a place to innovate, trial new ways of thinking and show ambition to tackle the key challenges of our time. The National Park has done this in the past on issues like windfarm or hilltrack policy, on increasing the percentage of affordable housing up to 45% in certain villages and towns, and pursuing ambitious projects like Heritage Horizons.
Heritage Horizons is part of our plan to tackle the climate emergency, protect and enhance biodiversity, and deliver meaningful improvements to people’s health and well-being. The Cairngorms National Park Authority was successful in its £12.5 million bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Horizons Programme in July 2021, and the funding will support 22 projects across the Park over the next seven years. At the end of the Actions section, we set out how these projects link to the proposed long-term objectives of the Partnership Plan.
One of the key points around a management plan that takes a long-term view (in this case over 25 years and beyond) is the need to be honest and make clear that there will be trade-offs. The dial cannot be ‘turned up’ on everything. We will look for areas where we can deliver multiple benefits and mitigate impacts, but we will also be honest about areas where compromise will be required.
For example, the climate is changing and this will affect the species and habitats that can survive in the Cairngorms National Park. If we have more trees there may be a reduction in moorland species. Equally, it might not be possible – or indeed desirable – to get all features on designated sites into favourable condition if our collective goal is long-term ecological restoration. There may be a need for controls on holiday rental properties to ensure housing is affordable for local people.
These are all points of reasonable debate - and we have heard views from both sides in this consultation so far - but it is essential that we find the right path to ensure the National Park thrives for both nature and people in the future. This means having difficult conversations with people from all walks of life who care about the National Park and making important decisions – backed up by the best available evidence – for the long term.
"An outstanding National Park, enjoyed and valued by everyone, where nature and people thrive together."
The Cairngorms National Park has a long-term vision. It is the intention to keep this vision for the next Partnership Plan period as it provides a good summary of what we are collectively trying to achieve.
The final plan that will be developed after the consultation will set out the path to 2045 and what we need to do over the next five years to start making progress towards that. It is critical that people feed into this consultation so that we can build that picture of the future, together.