Undemocratic National Parks

In the year 2000, three years after devolution in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament introduced the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 which discriminated against those residing in the Loch Lomond, Trossachs and Cairngorm areas by removing a substantial amount of power from the elected local authorities and placing it in the hands of National Park Authorities which are non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) responsible to central government.

This action brought about the anomaly that those residing within national park boundaries do not enjoy the same level of local democracy as elsewhere in the country, as the 25 NPA board members dominated by central government appointees and elected representatives, “must work together with the purpose, as set out in the Act [section 9 (1)], of ensuring that the National Park aims are collectively achieved in relation to the National Park in a coordinated way”.

The political structure of NPA Boards is:

  1. 10 central government appointees.
  2. 10 central government appointees nominated by local councils that have part of a ward within the park boundaries. These are generally, but not necessarily, local councilors who have been elected on mainstream issues but who are required to represent their electorate differently, depending whether or not their voters reside within national park boundaries. They are also entitled to make decisions that affect constituencies they do not represent.
  3. 5 elected board members who are solely concerned with national park issues. This is passed off as “democracy” but there is a world of a difference between electing local councilors on the wide political front and electing board members to quangos with a single-issue remit.

The best way to illustrate the lack of local democracy within national parks is to give an example of a hypothetical planning application in the Argyll and Bute area of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The following planning committee members would decide the outcome this “planning application”:

No elected representatives from Argyle and Bute Council would be involved and nine out of the ten board members would not be from the area.

This is only one example of how NPA Board Members from all over the country are making decisions on a wide range of issues that affect ordinary people who reside within national parks.

The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 is an act of discrimination against a minority of the population based on where they reside.

A Macmillan
April 2008

Letter and Email Correspondence Record:

View the full correspondence (PDF: 5.5MB - may take a while to download)