National parks must be at the heart of nature - Lorna Slater

One of the first things I knew about Scotland was the stunning beauty of our landscapes.
Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party,Lorna SlaterCo-leader of the Scottish Green Party,Lorna Slater
Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party,Lorna Slater

They are some of the first images people have of our country, with our lochs, glens, mountains, and coastlines being known and envied the world over.

But the reality is that, despite our global reputation, many of these iconic sites have become shadows of themselves.

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So much of our wildlife has been depleted and we are in a nature emergency, with one in nine species under threat of extinction. If we want to turn these images into a reality then we need to change what we are doing and fast.

With Scottish Greens in government we have committed to protecting 30% of Scotland for nature by 2030. That will need more than words. It will need investment and it will need action.

That is why I was proud to launch the Scottish Government's public consultation into the expansion of our national park network. Speaking at Loch Lomond last Thursday, I set out our plan to establish at least one new national park over the course of this Parliamentary term.

The consultation focuses on the criteria for selecting a park. Once that phase is finished we can make our final decisions, so I am also very keen to hear from you about where you think future parks should be and why.

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Our national parks are amazing places and must be at the forefront of our efforts to reverse the decline and breakdown of our biodiversity.

The two parks we currently have in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and the Cairngorms were established 20 years ago, and have provided homes to some of our most outstanding scenery and nature. They have enhanced their communities and provided valuable and in some cases life changing experiences for people from all across Scotland and beyond.

I am working with my colleagues from across the Scottish Government to ensure that they continue to offer havens for our wildlife and that they are a centrepiece of a greener future and our efforts to restore our natural world.

Our parks can and must be the lungs of our nation. They must lead the way in terms of nature regeneration, sustainable farming and forestry.

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The pandemic underlined just how much we benefit from our green spaces and why they are so vital. But it also underlined how our link with nature has broken and how far we have allowed so much of it to deteriorate.

I want young people 1000 years from now to have the opportunity to visit Loch Lomond, to hike the Cairngorms, and to fall in love with the wild beauty that makes Scotland so special.

This is where I need your help and your ideas. National parks are for all of us, so we should all have a say in what they provide and where they are.

Please go to Consult.Gov.Scot today and take a few minutes to fill in the consultation and help us to build a greener future.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity

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