The Angry Corrie 54: Jul-Aug 2002
A vote for your local NP?
All the people, so many people
What are National Parks for? Why have so many people across Scotland from varied backgrounds and with different agendas fought for an additional level of local bureaucracy? How can the new NPs satisfy such a diverse constituency? In the case of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park, according to the leaflet delivered to my door, the answer is to aim to be all things to all things (no people-first-ism here). Is this possible?
There is one area of agreement: NPs attract money, not only from the sort of visitors who need the NP label to put the destination on their tick list, but also from government at various levels. This is why villages from Kilmun via Kippen to Killin have campaigned to be invited to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs party. You cannot find a farmer near the NP willing to sell walling stone, because the word is that there will be big grants for rebuilding walls. The bid for the £200,000 required to repair the Endrick Bridge near Drymen was hung on the NP access peg. For Open Sesame, read National Park.
From the English experience we have come to expect a major element of NPs to be highly-marketed honeypots, with shops masquerading as educational experiences and a few viewpoint sweeteners. But there has also been an element of freedom to roam, as in the Peak District Access Land agreements. After the Scottish Land Reform legislation debates, the hillgoer would expect this to be a fundamental aspect of NPs in Scotland too.
But under the heading Access to the Hills, a leaflet produced by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Interim Committee (LLTIC) states the following: "Walking and cycling can be enjoyed on many Forestry Commission tracks. The path up Ben Lomond (NTS), the West Highland Way and other designated trails are also open to walkers. Use of the hills by caring walkers has traditionally been accepted by many moorland owners. For advice contact one of the Loch Lomond Park Authority rangers."
Maybe this attitude should not surprise those who tangled with the LLTIC during the FMD fiasco. My attempts to discover why the Dumpling above Gartocharn still had a LLTIC closed notice on it, long after the countryside had been declared open, furnished me with glimpses of internal battles between the Balloch (landowner-fearful) and Balmaha (walker-friendly) visitor centres. The danger will be if Balloch attitudes predominate. If chunks like this are cut-and-pasted into NP leaflets, our parklife wanderings may not be hand-in-hand but hand-to-hand.