The benefits of National Parks as they relate to Scotland have been described in detail in a recent report by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP). But what about our area and the people living and working in it?
We all know and appreciate some of the advantages of living in this beautiful part of the world. The main disadvantages in a sparsely populated rural area like this are economic. Incomes tend to be lower, services relatively more expensive to provide and economic opportunities are more restricted.
Like most National Parks in the UK, the main economic activities in this area are farming, forestry and tourism. Farming in Scotland is under growing pressure, particularly hill farming. The reduction of subsidies for renewables has limited the alternative options for landowners. Grants for forestry are in decline.
Tourism, on the other hand, is buoyant. This is good news for tourism-related businesses, and it presents possibilities for diversification to farmers and landowners. The "National Park" label is a magnet for tourists, and allows tourism businesses to charge a premium. They can market their offerings much more effectively under the umbrella of the "National Park" label. More visitors come, for more months of the year, and they are prepared to pay more for the implicit guarantee of an enjoyable holiday.
The same goes for farmers, landowners, and others who produce high quality local goods. Tourists like to buy authentic, local products. Direct marketing under the National Park label of beef, lamb, jams and jellies, (tweeds and cashmere too perhaps?) to visitors is a well-established way to benefit from these demands.
It is not just the area of the National Park which gains from the label. Surrounding towns and villages enjoy the "halo" effect of visitors looking for accommodation, shopping opportunities, cafes and attractive places to go on rainy days - museums, abbeys, visitor centres. The economic benefits of living inside National Parks have been explored for National Parks in England by comparing areas inside the National Parks to very similar areas outside the National Parks. All this leads to more jobs, higher incomes and a generally livelier economy in National Park areas.
Would a Borders National Park enjoy the same advantages?
The Northumberland National Park was created in 1956 and has a northern boundary which stops at the border with Scotland. This was a rather artificial boundary in that "The essential requirements of a National Park are that it should have great natural beauty, a high value for open-air recreation and substantial continuous extent." (Hobhouse Committee for the formation of National Parks, 1947). This description self evidently applies to the rolling Cheviot hills just North of the Border as well.
Now Northumberland National Park has announced that it is building a major new visitor centre at Once Brewed, the Sill. Half of the £14.8m funding comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Much of the rest comes from the EU and private Trusts. National Parks are eligible for funds from these sources. It is estimated that this investment will bring an additional £5m per year to the region in increased tourist spend.
Are the Cheviots north of the border any less attractive? They are certainly less well-advertised to the outside world. A "National Park" designation would raise the profile of the area and tell tourists everywhere about the attractiveness of the area, its many leisure opportunities and activities. It is reasonable to conclude that the area would experience the sort of economic uplift that other National Parks have experienced.
Please join this discussion. Put your comments/questions in below - but in particular we would like to know how you think a Borders National Park could benefit you, or might adversely affect you. All comments will be filtered for all the usual reasons and then published here within a few days with your name. We would like your comments by March 1st please if you want to influence the detailed proposal. After a more detailed proposal has been constructed, it will be published here and we will then ask for comments on this proposal.
The comments box below is meant for short comments. But if you have a longer story on how the Scottish Borders is a special place, please email us with your story and we might add it to our proposal!