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June 7, 2017 Nick Kempe 1 comment

What has been going on, and going wrong, in Scotland’s two National Parks since they were created has been a microcosm of our society as a whole and I believe reflects the current crisis in capitalism.  Increasing inequality, public authorities whose main purpose is to facilitate business interests (whether through outsourcing services or paving the way for developers), a wilful disregard for people and other species.   I have avoided mentioning the General Election since it was announced (see here) but what happens tomorrow is very important to the future of our National Parks, despite what I regard as the sterile political “debate” that has been conducted in Scotland.

 

I am a Social Worker by trade and have sometimes question how I can justify time campaigning for better National Parks when there are so many homeless people on the street and we live in one of the richest countries in the world (whether you see Scotland or Britain as your country).   I don’t however think that social justice and access to the natural environment are separate issues.   Historically some of the greatest campaigners for the countryside ( Patrick Geddes in Scotland who was both a Professor of Botany and a Professor of Sociology) were also  campaigners for social justice and its no coincidence that the post-war Labour Government created both the NHS and National Parks:

 

“the enjoyment of our leisure in the open air and the ability to leave our towns and walk on the moors and in the dales without fear of interruption are……….just as much part of positive health and well being as are the building of hospitals or insurance against sickness…….This is not just a Bill.  It is a People’s Charter……..”  

(Lewis Silkin introducing the National Park and Access to Countryside Act 1949).

The Party manifestos

 

I have taken a  look at the Scottish political party manifestos to see whether they any are making the links between social and environmental justice and have any vision for the role National Parks could play in delivering this.

 

The SNP manifesto is interesting because while it articulates a vision for social justice, including at the UK level, there is almost nothing on the environment apart from climate change and no mention of National Parks.   In my view it reads a bit like one half of the labour programme from the 1940s, albeit not fundamentally challenging the philosophical basis of neoliberalism.

 

The Scottish Labour Manifesto repeats the UK manifesto and at least recognises what is going wrong:  “The balance needs resetting: our air is polluted, our farms face an uncertain future, our fish stocks are collapsing, our oceans are used as dumping grounds, our forests, green belt, National Parks, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.”   The proposals to redress the balance are mainly focussed on improving enforcement of environmental and other laws, which though welcome, is only half the challenge.   There is little articulation of what a fairer Britain means for our landscapes.

 

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto also makes no mention of National Parks and focusses mainly on the risks that the protections offered by European environmental laws could be undermined by Brexit.  The assumption is these laws are working and there is little vision for a different future (apart from a ban on the neonicotonids which are destroying bee populations).

 

The Scottish Green manifesto is brief and although the most radical makes no mention of National Parks.  Unfortunately the Party with perhaps the most potential to shift the terms of the current debate is hardly participating in the election – a missed opportunity.

 

Interestingly its the Tory manifesto which appears to offer the most holistic vision:

 

We can no longer think of economic development as a competing force against
environmental protection. Earlier this year, the Scottish Conservatives set out our
approach to environmental policy in a comprehensive policy document. The paper
included ambitious plans across seven key sections including the circular economy,
biodiversity, energy, homes and transport. In it, we have argued for the setting up of
new national parks, the introduction of a range of non-fiscal incentives for the use of
electric vehicles, new urban consolidation hubs to reduce traffic emissions or further
development of district heating networks. Our approach will provide a greener and more
sustainable Scotland for us all. We set ourselves this task because we believe it is one of
the greatest challenges of our times. It is for this generation to tackle the issue and ensure
that the next will live in a better, more productive and more sustainable world.

 

The debate on the establishment of New National Parks – Scottish Parliament: 24 May 2017

 

In the middle of the election campaign there was a debate in the Scottish Parliament on new National Parks, which you can see on Scottish Parliament TV (see here) .   The motion, put by the Tories,  was

 

“That the Parliament recognises the value of Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, which creates jobs, contributes to the economy and attracts millions of tourists from Galloway and West Dumfries, the rest of Scotland and the world; notes what it sees as the success of the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs national parks in conserving and enhancing the natural heritage of these areas, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government to conduct a review of national parks and consider the establishment of new ones.”

 

What the Tories have recognised is that people care about the landscape and this can be good for the economy.   The debate showed however that in Scotland the whole framework for discussion for conservation and enjoyment of the countryside is being held in a resolutely neo-liberal framework, which assumes neo-liberalism and  austerity is here to stay (despite the possibility of an earthquake south of the border tomorrow which no-one could have anticipated 6 weeks ago).

 

This was summed up by the Minister of the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, at the end of the debate where she said she did not share the optimism that new National Parks could be set up with little cost and that the reality is there is less money and that the money has to come from elsewhere.   She described the silence on this from the other contributors to the debate as telling.  She went on to say that the  “costs associated with all 7 Natonal Parks (as proposed by the Scottish Campaign for National Parks of which I am a member) would run into tens of millions…………….in the current circumstances there is no likelihood of being able to assign the finance”           While she applauded the “desire to protect Scotland’s iconic landscapes”  she also stated “National Parks are just one designation that can boost economic development of an area” suggesting she sees National Parks as a means of economic development, albeit one we cannot afford.    The response from the Tories to this challenge was that new National Parks was all about getting the right Business Case but they did not challenge the austerity narrative, suggesting they agreed with Roseanna Cunningham, that the main issue is about how we spend limited resources.

 

They are not alone in this.  In Wales the Labour Government has been trying to change the law on National Parks in order to “free up” economic development (see here).  A reflection of the schism between the economic philosophy of the Corbynite UK labour party and the labour party in the devolved administrations.

 

I found the debate very disappointing.  It provided little indication at present that our politicians in Scotland are able to articulate a vision which is not entirely based on money and that National Parks matter for reasons other than our neoliberal economy (though Alison Johnstone from the Greens did make the case for National Parks protecting mountain hares).

 

I still haven’t decided how I will vote tomorrow.  The possibilities of alternative visions of society – in which National Parks could play an important role – which were around during the Independence Referendum appear to have shifted to south of the border.    I hope they remain after tomorrow as I think this could help rejuvenate visionary thinking and debate in Scotland.

May 16, 2017 Nick Kempe No comments exist
Mid Glen Falloch, viewed from shoulder of An Caisteal.  The area It is now a mass of tracks, leading to hydro dams.  Foreground Allt Andoran, far right Eas Eonan and left background start of track up Allt a Chuillinn.  The hydro powerhouse is centre background, Derrydarroch to the right.

On 6th May, during the very dry spell, I went for another walk over An Caisteal and Ben a Chroin, almost a year to the day after a similar round The Glen Falloch hydro schemes (2) (with several visits in-between).   The walk provided yet more evidence of why Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority staff should never have approved these tracks (which in the original planning application consented to by the Scottish Government were to be removed) but also about the poor standards of restoration.    This is a disaster for a National Park whose 2012-17 Partnership Plan, which is supposed to guide everything it does,  starts with the statement that:

 

“we want the National Park to be an internationally-renowned landscape”.  

 

How does what the LLTNPA have allowed to happen in Glen Falloch contribute to that?    In the draft Partnership Plan 2018-23 which is now out for consultation (see here) it is telling that there is no evaluation of how successful the LLTNPA has been in achieving this aim.

The first Allt a Chuillinn intake centre, the other two intakes are beyond track you can see bottom left

Previously, I have stated that in my view the restoration of the ground in which the pipelines have been buried has generally successful and little  cause for concern with it often being quite difficult to make out the line of the pipelines.    While I believe that is still sometimes the case, the long dry spell has accentuated the differences in vegetation and its easy to see the landscape scars (above centre).   The land may take longer to recover than I had thought.

 

Allt Andoran Track 8th May 2016

Comparing the photo above (taken a year ago on a day with far less good visibility) with the first photo in the post taken a year later, you can see that the ground above the pipeline has recovered to an extent but has a long way to go.   The track itself, despite the vegetation down the middle, looks little different and forms a permanent landscape scar.

Close up of Eas Eonan track, showing poor restoration of the temporary access track that led to blue pipe over West Highland Line (centre left)

 

The Eas Eonan hydro track leads into an area of core wild land.  The new draft Park Plan states:

 

“The National Park provides opportunities for anyone to have their first experience of the ‘wild outdoors” 

 

There is nothing in the plan about how the National Park, through all the developments it has approved, has eroded that experience in the last five years.  Perhaps the  National Park Board and senior management team believe walking up a bulldozed track is a wild experience?    Its becoming harder and harder to have a wild experience in the National Park because of decisions made by the LLTNPA.  Removal of the tracks, as originally planned, would have preserved some of that.

Lower reaches of Coire Earb by the Upper Falloch, Beinn Odhar and Ben Dorain in background

Coire Earb is wild, and indeed falls within a core wild land area.   While there was an existing track by the upper reaches of the River Falloch, this ended 1 km before the new hydro dam and formerly was out of sight when you were descending the glen.   The decision by LLTNPA staff to allow the track to remain permanently has changed the experience totally.

The new section of track. The line of the pipeline is now more visible than it was a year ago.

Would not the hydro here have had far less impact on the landscape if the track has been removed as originally planned?

The Upper Glen Falloch hydro close up

May 2017
May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The approval of the LLTNPA to the track extension to the hydro being retained has made it easier for the Glen Falloch Estate to drive vehicles off-road further up the glen.   A year ago (right) there was no evidence of vehicles being driven beyond the intake, now there are vehicle tracks beside it which are destroying the ground that was restored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vehicles are also being driven off the track with no regard for soil or vegetation.  The consequence is the track is in places likely to end up being 5-7m wide instead of the 2.5m (and 3m on steep hills and bends) which the LLTNPA recommends in its “award winning” good practice guidance which it has never enforced.

 

The reason for this is that the LLTNPA has basically allowed a new wide track to be created to construct the hydro scheme but then allowed the batters (see diagram below) to remain in place with minimum attempts to re-landscape the flat surface of the track (a little bit of soil and peat has just been added to the outside edge of the track).  The result is that its very easy for vehicles to drive off the track while in landscape terms the track is still effectively 5-7m broad in most places.

Photo showing how original attempt to cover former track surface is failing, with former surface of construction track being revealed as turf has been eroded by cattle.

The design of the track together with the erosion caused by vehicles and cattle have had the result that in most places there is actually now less peaty soil by the track than there was a year ago (see above).

 

The failure to re-landscape the former road surface so that the remaining track moulds into the contours of the land has also made it easy for the estate to create new parking or working areas which add considerably to the visual impact of the track.

 

The pre-existing track  which ended a little further up the hill, was widened for the hydro construction,  not by cutting a further batter but by importing aggregate (left) to use as fill.

There little  attempt (photo above) to shape the the fill so it merges into the contours of the land.  The result is a broad bench cutting across the hillside.  In landscape terms, the track here is in effect still 5-7m wide rather than the 2.5-3m recommended by the National Park.

The 3m mark on tape measure is just to the left of the small stone holding the tape measure in place.

Even on the better sections, the track is far wider than the LLTNPA requires.  I took my 3m tape which is here fully extended on a section of track which slopes gently downhill.  I think a 2.5m track would have been more than adequate here (and probably less as you can see from the vehicle marks) but the actual track is more like 3.5m wide.   What is the LLTNPA going to do to address this?  The wider the track of course, the more it will stand out from a distance.  There is no evidence of the central grass strips which grace the Allt Andoran track (top photo).

If there was any serious intention to narrow the upper Falloch construction track this double gate would have been removed – another illustration of just how wide this track is.

 

 

Readers who have driven up the Glen Falloch or walked there will know that the construction compound is still in place and, during my walk, there was some evidence that some further work had been undertaken to restore the destruction caused by the hydro scheme.

 

Where turf has been stored successfully, then used alongside the track and cattle have been kept off, the restoration does look better, although the protruding plastic culvert tells a tale

The restored sections however are few in comparison to those that still need attention and at this rate the track is going to take years to restore to anything like an acceptable state.  That is unacceptable in a National Park whose current Plan incidentally states (and rightly so):

The outstanding landscapes and special qualities of the Park should be protected and where possible enhanced

 

What needs to happen

 

The LLTNPA needs both to learn from the Glen Falloch disaster but also find ways to reduce the impact of what has happened.   This is not just about Glen Falloch, but the forty odd other hydro schemes in the National Park, many of which have similar impacts.  Here is my first go at a list of actions that are needed:

  1. Planning decisions that have significant landscape implications should no longer be delegated to staff but considered by the Planning Committee, as in the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
  2. The LLTNPA should commission an independent report into the Glen Falloch hydro schemes which should fully involve those who are concerned about the protection of Scotland’s landscape, which should look both at the mistakes that have been made and how they can be reversed.
  3. The new Partnership Plan needs to incorporate a meaningful landscape policy which, like the Cairngorms National Park Authority, indicates areas where there will be a presumption against development.  Unless the LLTNPA does this, the current destruction of landscape in the National Park will simply continue.
  4. The LLTNPA Board should engage with the Glen Falloch estate and develop a plan on how to remove the hydro tracks granted consent by staff.  Over the next ten years the estate will receive a huge income from the hydro schemes which could still be used, as originally intended, to remove the tracks.
  5. Where existing tracks were widened, the LLTNPA needs to ensure that all the restoration meets the standards set out in its good practice guidance.   Tracks which are broader than the maximum and unfinished culverts for example should not be tolerated.
  6. The LLTNPA should put in place measures to control the off-road use of vehicles, particularly in wild land.
  7. The LLTNPA Board and senior staff need to get out more and take a look at what is being done in their name.
January 18, 2017 Nick Kempe 1 comment
Herald Monday 17th January

Trouble has been brewing in Luss for quite a time.  Local residents over the summer were swamped with visitors and one of the main issues has been cars circulating the narrow streets and parking outside resident’s houses.   Argyll and Bute, which is the Roads Authority, is now consulting on its proposals (see here) to manage the problem through introduction of a 20mph zone and spaces reserved for residents (for a fee).   The community council are objecting, saying that parking should be free for residents and visitors cars banned completely.   The Council’s response is that unless the road is de-listed – which could mean the community taking on the cost of its upkeep – it cannot ban the public.   The interesting question in this potentially intractable debate is where is the Loch Lomond and National Park Authority doing?    Readers will note there is not a mention of it in the article.

 

You might find this doubly strange if you had listened to BBC Out of Doors 10 days ago http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087tgv4 and heard Gordon Watson, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Chief Executive imply that the primary role of the National Park was visitor management.  Indeed, before Mr Watson came into post, the Park worked with Councils on traffic management and originally the east Loch Lomond byelaws were introduced  as part of a package of measures which included the creation of a clearway north from Balmaha.

 

Since Mr Watson has come into post however the LLTNPA appears to have abandoned working with Councils not just on litter   (see here) but cars.  When I have asked the LLTNPA about what’s happening to proposals to create more clearways in the Park, the response has been this is a matter for Councils.  Instead of trying to co-ordinate its approach with Argyll and Bute, the LLTNPA appears now just to be going off and doing its own thing.   So, its busy installing barriers and car park charging systems in its car parks without any consideration of the consequences for local residents.   Its not difficult to predict for example that the proposed photographic number plate charging system (see here) at the large public carpark in Tarbert will result in a significant proportion of visitors  parking their cars in the village.  This will cause no end of bother for local residents which  Argyll and Bute Council will then be left to try and sort out.

 

Indeed, it appears that the LLTNPA is currently either not co-operating with or blocking some of the potential solutions to the traffic problems in Luss.  Luss Estates offered land for a carpark on the edge of the village and this has gone nowhere.  I think we should be told why.   I have no wish for the National Park to be turned into one large  carpark, but any proper solutions, such as greatly improved public transport up the A82 also need Park involvement.  If as Gordon Watson claimed on Out of Doors, a key role of the National Park is visitor management  – which, he elaborated, should involve creation of facilities and infrastructure – why are they not playing this role at Luss?

 

September 1, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist
IMG_6787 west LL laybys - Copy
Caravan and awning in 3 bays Layby on southbound side of A82 14th August 2016

There has been a history of people staying in caravans in the laybys along the A82 south of Tarbert.    The caravan in the photo above was still there when I went past on Monday 29th August.    The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority used  long stays such as this, which are commonly known as encampments, to justify the proposed camping byelaws – despite powers being available to stop this under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

 

When I asked the LLTNPA about this over a year ago, I was told:

 

“The National Park Authority does not have powers to take action with respect to long-stay caravans, tents or motor homes and therefore has no policy or procedure for taking action”.

Loch Earn sign Cameron McNeish - Copy (2)
Loch Earn sign 2016 – similar signs were in place 2015. Photo Credit Cameron McNeish

This response is misleading.  Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act can be used where two or more people on land “with the common purpose of residing there for any period”   and “reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave”.   While the LLTNPA owns very little land in the National Park, I am sure the landowners who have been complaining about encampments would be only too happy to give their permission to the LLTNPA to act on their behalf.  Indeed, this appears to have happened on the north side of Loch Earn (see left).

 

Further, one might have thought that with its Rangers out on daily patrol recording every tent, caravan and fire the LLTNPA would have a key role in supplying the evidence necessary for the police to take action under Section 61.  The police can remove encampments where “any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his, or those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land”.

 

However,  FOI 2015-025 Response encampment also showed that besides having no policy or procedures to report encampments to the police, the LLTNPA’s rangers did not record how long tents or caravans were in place let alone whether there was any evidence of campers/caravaners causing damage.    It also admitted that the LLTNPA had no means of identifying or recording when complaints were received about encampments – despite local communities stating they had submitted frequent complaints to the Park.   If the LLTNPA had fixed these issues and created mechanisms to ensure adequate liaison between landowners, the police and itself most of the problems associated with encampments could have been addressed.  And there would have been no need for the proposed camping byelaws………..

 

I find it curious that, to the best of my knowledge, the signs on Loch Earn are the ONLY initiative the Park has been involved in regarding encampments.   There are NO signs like this on West Loch Lomond.   This suggests to me that the signs on Loch Earn was very much an initiative from Drummond Estates, who had serious reservations about the proposed camping byelaws, and not the LLTNPA.   Assuming that the LLTNPA believe the caravan in the above photo to be a problem, it appears that rather than take action about this now, along with the local landowner Luss Estates,  they would prefer to ban camping and campervans completely.

 

Now there are limitations to Section 61.   There need to be two people encamped and there have been caravans parked in laybys on the A82 that look as though they may be used by single people as a temporary home (if you are working in the area on one of the roads projects for example its far cheaper to park your caravan than rent a place to stay).    The police also have no grounds to remove longstay campers/caravaners who abide by the Access Code in every respect except for the length of their stay (i.e they do nothing that could be classified as damage) and who remain polite at all times.   However, I suspect very few people who “encamp” are aware of the law and if the Park put up some signs, like Drummond Estates, and its Rangers spoke to the people in the caravans most would leave.  Problem solved, no need for camping byelaws.    There are no signs that the LLTNPA has done anything on West Loch Lomond and I am not aware of any other initiatives elsewhere in the Park.    A complete indictment of its failures as a National Park.

 

To make matters worse, by opting for camping byelaws rather than using existing powers, the Park is proposing to stop all those people in campervans who stop overnight off the A82 (two of which are in the top photo), the cycle tourers, canoe tourers and fisherman none of whom cause any serious problems.  This August I have seen dozens of campervans stopping off overnight in laybys along the A82, one of the two main tourist routes north.   It appears the LLTNPA is in league with certain commercial caravan park owners on loch Lomondside to force all the campervans to stay in their sites.  I guess the LLTNPA believe it will increase tourism revenues:  its more likely to destroy the reputation of the National Park as a tourist definition.

 

What needs to happen

I suggested to Ministers last November that they should suspend any further work on the camping byelaws until the LLTNPA had used all the existing powers available to itself and its partners and shown that they were not sufficient.    I never received an answer to my letter.   The new Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, should now be asking the LLTNPA to provide an independent evaluation of the impact of the Drummond Estates initiative, the extent to which it has been successful or not, and the reasons for this.  The Minister should also ask for a tourism impact assessment – none has ever been produced – on the likely impact of the byelaws not just in the National Park but for the whole of Scotland.

July 2, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

When I set up parkswatchscotland in March I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.  I had broadly conceived it as an open platform for people concerned about our two National Parks and had hoped to get a team of active contributors within a few weeks.   I thought I might write a post or two a week.  Its not quite worked out like that.   While there are now lots of people contributing to parkwatch in various ways, from ideas, to providing photos to promoting posts on social media only a handful of you so far have wanted to write posts and I have no co-editors to continue to publish posts while I go off on holiday.  This is a shame because there is a lot going on at present!

 

However to keep up the momentum, I have scheduled a number of “Postcards to the Park” to appear while I am on holiday.     Any comments that are submitted on these may take a few days to appear as I will be in the mountains and am not much good yet at managing the blog from a phone!  If after seeing the postcards, you have a photo which you think makes a point, do please forward to parkswatchscotland.

 

Thankyou all for your support.

 

 

April 5, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

This lovely positive film http://www.hakaimagazine.com/video/right-roam   puts Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to shame.    People are filmed driving to beautiful places and camping by the roadside to paddle on lochs – just as they do in the National Park.   A great counter argument to the LLTNPA and FCS who wish to remove roadside camping from access rights http://www.robedwards.com/2015/11/fury-over-proposal-to-ban-camping-by-roads.html and to all those negative images the Park produced as an excuse to ban camping by our loch shores.   It explains the history too.   One forgiveable mistake: they did not need to ask permission to camp.  Talking to local people about where best to camp though was fine and a good thing to do if camping near a house.  Its interesting what a positive response they received.   There are a lot of local people in the National Park who would welcome campers too but their voice has been silenced.

 

 

March 15, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

After a morning looking around west Loch Lomond (to be covered in future posts) I attended  today’s LLTNPA Board Meeting as an observer with Peter and Mary Jack from the Loch Lomond Association.  A member of Buchanan Community Council had also turned up to see how the Board operates. In governance terms the March meeting should be the most important of the year, it agrees what the Park will do for the next year and sets the budget.

 

Although the meeting started late, about 2.15, it was all over by 3.30. Not bad for a meeting with 17 agenda items. The only semblance of any debate was over Board Member’s remuneration where the Board agreed it was very unfair they had to set their own remuneration as there were pressures on them not to increase this. Instead they wanted an independent review body, which presumably would agree that because like our MPs they are all such good people, they would require a percentage increase over what the rest of the population receives. To me this missed the main point which is why pay 17 members to attend meetings where there is no discussion or debate.
The papers though were of interest. The Park has only had a 2% cut in Government grant this year, much less than most other bodies financed through the Scottish Government’s Natural resources directorate. I was tempted to think this was a reward for delivering the byelaws but I checked and the Cairngorms NPA had a similar cut. The Park has responded to these cuts partly by dragging staff vacancies – staff comprise 80% of its costs – but also by planning to increase income. While they can charge for planning applications, income from this is forecast to drop and one of the ways the Park is intending to increase income is through charges to visitors. There were no questions about the implications of this but a section in the Operational Plan indicates that a contract is to be let in the summer to manage parking at Balmaha – so we  can predict parking charges there.  There is no indication that visitors will get better facilities in return.

20160314_131424The increase in income forecast for next year however is not  great – about £65k in the budget – and does not appear to warrant the employment of an estates team to lead on producing more income and delivering capital projects.   They appear to be being paid for out of the capital budget presumably in order to progress the stalled campsite programme.  This is obviously unsustainable and my suspicion is that the Park is hoping that once the camping permit system is up and running this will generate the income to pay for the estates team. If this is the case, in effect the Park is going to charge for access in order to pay for its own services. This is totally wrong, needless to say, and contrary to our access legislation.

 

The Operational Plan openly emphasises that delivery of the camping byelaws is the Park’s number one priority for the next year: “Following approval by Scottish Ministers on 26th January 2016 for the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Camping Management Byelaws, our top priority will be the delivery of Your Park in time for the byelaws coming into force in March 2017”.  The main thing to appreciate about this is the considerable shift of resources away from other projects to camping provision and management as set out in the Park’s budget Agenda Item 10 – Draft Budget 2016-17:

      • conservation revenue expenditure decreases from £525k to £71k- no Board Member asked if the wildlife organisations had been consulted or were happy with this.
      • visitor experience (tourism) capital expenditure drops from £525k to £44k – no Board Member asked if tourism businesses had been consulted or were happy with this.
      • Expenditure on litter management drops from £38k to nil – no Board Member asked if the community at Arrochar, which is blighted by the worst litter problems in the
Litter at the Head of Loch Long
Litter at the Head of Loch Long
     Park, had been consulted or was happy with this.

  • Even the increase of expenditure on camping to £505k is not as good as it looks.  £100k on this is to be spent on signage – ie signs saying camping is now a criminal offence – and another £200k on developing a single campsite on Forestry Commission land at Loch Chon.  This is hardly the transformational investment in camping facilities the Park promised.

My guess is that as the implications of this shift in expenditure become evident over time, support for the byelaws which has been grossly exaggerated anyway will evaporate.    The resources that are to be devoted to trying to make the camping byelaws work would be much better spent on other things.

 

Meantime pages 4-5 of the Agenda Item 9 – Appendix 1 – DRAFT Annual Operational Plan 2016-17 set out a timetable for implementing the byelaws.  The Board to their credit asked for quarterly update reports which means that progress on this should be public.

 

The one interesting piece of additional information that did come out in the meeting was – to give her credit – in response to a question asked by Linda McKay, the Park’s Convener:  the Scottish Government never responded or gave any feedback to the Park’s review of the east Loch Lomond byelaws.   The point I think of Linda McKay’s question was to ascertain whether the Park is ever likely to receive feedback on the reports it will have to make in future on the operation of the byelaws.

 

I too asked the Government about their response to my critique of the report on the east Loch Lomond byelaws and have never had a reply.   The Park is not the only body that is unaccountable and it seems to me fundamentally wrong that Aileen McLeod, as Minister for the Environment, can act in this way.    We need MSPs to ask her questions about this in the Scottish Parliament.

 

 

March 14, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

The CNPA have responded to the media coverage of the mountain hare cull  http://cairngorms.co.uk/mountain-hare-cull-statement/    The response is quite predictable – as a member of staff the Director of Conservation was not in a position to launch the CNPA in new directions – but very sad.  It demonstrates some of what is wrong with so-called conservation in the National Park:

  • there can be no “balance of moorland species” when everything centres on grouse shooting; a balance of moorland species would see golden eagles everywhere in the Cairngorms.
  • there is no need for better data; what difference does knowing the numbers of hares make except when they are being exterminated from grouse moors?  Data in this case is a trap which has sent the conservation agencies off on years of research which feeds into the hunting narrative that large numbers of hares are a problem.   They are not, but the lack of eagles and other predators is.  Instead of requiring better data on hares before banning culls, we should be requiring numbers of eagles to rise to predicted levels before allowing any shooting.
  • and just what does a “management cull” have to do with nature conservation in this case?   The Park has allowed management speak from the red deer world to be used to justify killing other species which unlike deer have a number of natural predators.