Cairngorms National Park
The southern boundary of Cairngorms National Park is to be extended to include Blair Atholl and parts of eastern and Highland Perthshire, it was announced today.
The move follows sustained campaigning by local communities to be included in the Park.
Speaking in Parliament, Environment Minister Michael Russell also announced that both of Scotland's National Parks (the other is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs) will be reviewed to ensure they are being run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Mr Russell said:
"Our National Parks have an important role to play in achieving a greener Scotland, by supporting rural communities and improving the environment. Internationally, their iconic landscapes are at the heart of Scotland's image and reputation.
"The Parks have made good progress since they were established. Nevertheless, we are committed to simpler, more effective government and need to ask ourselves if we have the right model for running the Parks and what alternatives there might be.
"The review will look at the organisation and running of the National Parks, as well as more detailed matters such as planning powers. It will also look at whether there is a need for boundary changes.
"A strong case has already been made, however, for extending the southern boundary of the Cairngorms National Park. Scottish Natural Heritage will be taking forward this work whilst the review is underway.
"First and foremost, National Parks should be about local people. I am a passionate supporter of community-led initiatives and, while there are no resources available within existing spending plans for more Parks, I would listen to other communities who put forward proposals for National Park status.
"The North Harris Trust is one organisation which believes National Park status would benefit the island economically, socially and culturally. It is today starting to canvas local opinion to see whether such plans would have the full support of the community. I wholeheartedly support this consultation and look forward to seeing the outcome, though I cannot make any commitment that it will necessarily lead to National park designation."
There are two National Parks in Scotland: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs was set up in 2002 and Cairngorms in 2003.
The National Park review will be done in two stages. The first stage will examine organisational issues and will begin in May. The second stage will begin in the autumn will deal with more detailed operational matters and will also consider possible criteria for any future National Park designation.
The review will be taking place in the context of the First Minister's January announcement on simplifying public services. This announcement indicated that further work was required to consider the employer arrangements and shared services in the two National Parks. This will be considered as part of the review announced today.
The work on the southern boundary of the Cairngorms National Park will proceed separately from the review. It will follow a three-stage process of assessment and formal consultation as set out in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000.
Scottish Natural Heritage will scope the work involved, including the process of engaging with relevant stakeholders, and take it forward.