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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, February 11, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Virtual) 11 February 2021

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Scotland’s Hydrogen Economy, Coronavirus Acts Report, Decision Time, Covid-19 Pandemic (Economic Impact on Women), Galloway National Park


Contents


Galloway National Park

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-23892, in the name of Emma Harper, on the potential for a Galloway national park. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the Galloway National Park Association’s work in promoting the establishment of a national park in the area as potentially Scotland’s third such development; considers that this could bring positive benefits to mental and physical health, conservation, the environment, the economy and future sustainability; understands that, in 2017, following the publication of a discussion paper and a period of community consultation and engagement, the Association published A Galloway National Park—It’s Our Time, which identified the goal of the proposed park as to promote an attractive and healthy natural and cultural environment that will benefit the communities of Galloway both socially and economically, and offer broader benefits to others, including visitors, and provide a vibrant and sustainable future in which the region’s young people can flourish; recognises that the paper aims to strengthen the argument for the establishment of the national park in the area, ultimately leading to the development of further national parks; understands that, ahead of the COP26 conference, the Scottish Government has committed in its Statement of Intent on Biodiversity for an additional 7.3% of land to be designated as protected to meet the proposed UN 2030 target; considers that a Galloway national park could provide an ideal opportunity to help achieve this; believes that national parks, and protected outdoor green spaces, provide opportunities for people to access the outdoors and try new activities; considers that they promote positive health and wellbeing that can reduce stress, depression and help address physical health conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes as part of a social prescribing approach; thanks the Association and its Chair, Rob Lucas, and President, Dame Barbara Kelly, for their work so far on this issue, and notes calls for the Scottish Government to set out, in principle, its position on a national park for Galloway, which could proudly be Scotland’s third national park.

17:13  

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the opportunity to debate the motion, which allows me to highlight bonnie Galloway and the south-west of Scotland.

I thank colleagues from all parties who have supported my motion to move on the conversation about the potential of a national park, and I thank the Galloway National Park Association, its president, Dame Barbara Kelly, its chair, Rob Lucas and all the other trustees. I also thank NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and Ramblers Scotland for their briefings, as well as the individual farmers and others who have contacted me with their views.

I have been impressed by the media and social media reaction to the motion. It is good to have people laying their cards on the table.

This evening, we shall examine the pros and cons of the potential for a national park for Galloway; its potential benefits to health and wellbeing and conservation, the environment, the economy and future sustainability; and the GNPA discussion paper “A Galloway National Park—It’s Our Time”.

Specifically, the pandemic has demonstrated the absolute necessity of access to outdoor spaces, which supports health and wellbeing. Evidence to the Health and Sport Committee and our report on social prescribing back that up. Tackling obesity, preventing type 2 diabetes, tackling cardiovascular disease and promoting good mental health are all part of that.

The GNPA states that a national park could attract more visitors and promote a thriving rural economy in the south-west while helping to tackle the climate emergency and promoting biodiversity. The Scottish Government has committed to protecting at least 30 per cent of our land for nature by 2030—that is 30 by 30—and a national park could aid in that. National park status for Galloway would raise the profile of the area and attract visitors, new residents and investment. Strengthening the resilience of communities is a goal of the association.

All of that has to be done properly and not to the detriment of local farmers, rural and agricultural businesses or the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve, which has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Earlier in the parliamentary session, I hosted an event to raise awareness of the biosphere and its work. I welcome the recent award of £1.9 million in funding, over five years, for the UNESCO biosphere from South of Scotland Enterprise. SOSE needs to be supported in its excellent economic development work. It has achieved a lot since it hit the ground running last year, as the pandemic started.

Respondents to the GNPA’s survey felt that Galloway’s dispersed rural population presents additional challenges, but the long-term security of being a national park was seen by many communities and businesses—including hotels, bed and breakfasts and outdoor activity providers—as a potential catalyst for their development and expansion. The pandemic has shown us that working and learning from home in a rural community is achievable as long as digital connectivity requirements are met. I therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s investment in digital roll-out. A national park would provide our region’s young people with additional employment opportunities on their doorstep. It would give them a choice of career prospects, whether they chose to remain in the area or to return to Galloway following further education.

We know that south-west Scotland already has world-class destinations such as the internationally recognised UNESCO biosphere, the dark sky park in Galloway forest and the 7stanes mountain bike trails. Let us not forget to add the waterfront at Stranraer on the Rhins of Galloway to that world-class list, as it has hosted the world’s skiffie championship and is home to the famous Stranraer oyster festival.

As well as the positives that the national park could bring, it is important to highlight the concerns that have been raised. The NFU’s briefing clearly states that it does not support a proposal for a Galloway national park at this time. Interestingly, I have also been contacted by NFU members who farm in Galloway who are in favour of a national park. There are concerns that national park status could create more bureaucracy and barriers to development with regard to farming and policy that would not benefit agricultural businesses that are looking to invest, diversify or develop new income streams. A national park cannot become a barrier to mitigating climate change by preventing modern farming practices or renewable energy policies being implemented. I am aware that there are ways in which planning powers can be retained by local authorities and not assumed by national park boards. Those issues need to be explored and discussed further.

It is crucial that all stakeholders are at the table when the potential for a national park is being discussed. There are now new stakeholders, such as South of Scotland Enterprise, regional land use partnerships and the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, which is the new

“strategic Destination Management and Marketing Organisation”

for tourism and hospitality across the south of Scotland.

I am acutely aware that we are still in a global pandemic, that businesses in Galloway and across Scotland are getting hammered by Boris’s bungled Brexit and that we are near the end of the parliamentary session. However, I am looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is shining on Galloway. With that in mind, I want to make it clear to the minister that I am not asking for immediate action. The Covid pandemic, the vaccine roll-out and repairing the damage from Boris’s Brexit are of primary importance. I am asking that we plan ahead for Galloway’s future and that the Government sets out its position on further consultation on the potential for a national park and on whether it will pursue wider consultation to best serve the future interests of all parties in Galloway.

17:20  

David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

I thank Emma Harper for securing this important debate.

As I am a lifelong member of the scouts and an outdoor enthusiast, discussion of Scotland’s national parks is close to my heart. It makes me proud that a founding father of national parks was the Scot John Muir, who left Dunbar as a young boy for a life in America. His efforts in the 1890s led to the development of the world-wide national parks movement, and his legacy led to the Scottish Parliament passing national parks legislation in 2000 as an early part of the land reform programme.

Scotland’s rich and varied landscapes are among the best in the world, ranking highly in their richness, quality and diversity. We have stunning beaches, coastlines, ancient woodlands, wild mountains, rivers and lochs, all of which are rich in wildlife and history and provide great opportunities for outdoor recreation. They are one of our country’s greatest assets, attracting visitors from far and wide, and they have long been celebrated in art, literature and music all over the world.

The world-wide recognition of Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage is reflected in our nature-based tourism, which is estimated to be worth £1.4 billion to the economy annually and which supports 39,000 full-time-equivalent jobs. As national parks are the leading internationally recognised destinations for visitors to our natural and cultural heritage, national park status brings higher levels of protection to our most treasured landscapes and wildlife, and it improves opportunities for the restoration of damaged habitats.

Since the establishment of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park, in 2002, and the Cairngorms national park, in 2003, our national parks have been hugely influential in supporting the health, economy and natural heritage of their areas as well as of the country as a whole. Those benefits can clearly be seen in areas such as Aviemore. For more than 30 years, I have been a regular visitor to the area and I have seen the dramatic changes that the town has undergone. Originally a small, tranquil town, it has been revitalised through investment since the national park designation, in 2003, and it is now a leading destination in Scotland. My knees will testify to the number of years that I have spent snowboarding in the Cairngorm mountains, but the area offers so much more. The beauty of the area is its diversity, and it has arguably become one of the best places in Scotland for all ages and abilities to experience a range of activities from walking, for those who want to relax, to white-water rafting, for the more adventurous among us.

We all know that outdoor recreation brings many benefits for our health and wellbeing, but that has never been more true than during the past year. The Covid pandemic has affected everything that we do, including the way and the volume in which we use the great outdoors, and it has shown just how much people value parks, beaches and lochs. When people participate in outdoor recreation, they do not just get fitter and healthier; they also feel better mentally. As a member of the Health and Sport Committee, I know that there are links between physical activity and the improvement of our health and wellbeing, and the topic has been given considerable attention. During the committee’s work on social prescribing, it became clear to us that physical activity is an investment, not a cost, and that by positively influencing individual practices and personal behaviour choices we can build healthier communities and prevent long-term conditions rather than manage them.

However, increased outdoor activity can be a source of challenges, as has been highlighted by the Scottish Campaign for National Parks. The past year has revealed just how essential visitor management is, and there have been many reports of problems with parking, toilets, litter, camping, fires and path erosion. I strongly agree that managing access to the countryside for outdoor recreation is at the heart of the mission of the national parks, and I believe that having more national parks can contribute significantly to resolving such problems, benefiting visitors and communities and the future sustainability of the environment.

I will take a moment to commend the dedication and work of the Galloway National Park Association for promoting the establishment of a national park in the area and for its extensive engagement with the local community and local authorities. I am familiar with the natural beauty of the Dumfries area. Every summer, my scout group would camp in the beautiful Ettrick valley and would regularly hike the southern uplands and take in the spectacular Grey Mare’s Tail. The view from Loch Skeen has to be one of the most stunning panoramic views ever seen. However, you will know all about it if you get caught there in weather like we have had recently. Aside from the breathtaking Dumfriesshire scenery, the highlight for the scouts was always the wild mountain goats. Year after year, children would return home completely changed by their experiences.

I believe that Scotland’s national parks lead the way in tackling the climate emergency and nature crisis, promoting mental and physical health and wellbeing, boosting rural employment and celebrating our world-class landscapes. Therefore, I would welcome further consultation on proposals for a third national park in Scotland as we continue working towards fulfilling our commitment to increase protected areas for nature from the current 23 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030.

17:25  

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

I am pleased to speak in the debate, and I thank Emma Harper for bringing the topic to the chamber again. It is one that I know my dearly missed friend, mentor, Presiding Officer, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries and long-time champion of national parks, Sir Alex Fergusson, would have approved of. I am not sure that he would have approved of Ms Harper’s opportunism in suggesting that Brexit has anything to do with national parks, however. He would have been more interested in highlighting her Scottish National Party’s boorach of missed environmental and biodiversity targets.

After many years of campaigning, I am sure that Sir Alex would rather have debated a different motion to the one that is in front of us, because there is little in it to debate or disagree with. I will not revisit old arguments, because there is little doubt that Galloway has all the credentials that are required for it to be Scotland’s next national park. Sadly, however, we already know the Scottish Government’s regrettable and short-sighted position.

I would have preferred the motion to make an unambiguous call: that, given the grass-roots support from evidence that has been collected by the Galloway National Park Association, and given the cross-party political support for the establishment of a new national park, we parliamentarians demand that the Government initiate the process that is set out in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000.

In summary, the act states:

“The Scottish Ministers may require ... Scottish Natural Heritage, or ... any other public body appearing to them to have expertise ... to consider a National Park proposal and ... to report to them, on matters including

(a) the area which it is proposed should be designated as a National Park,

(b) the desirability of designating the area in question ... as a National Park,

(c) the functions which it is proposed the National Park authority for the Park should exercise,

(d) the likely annual costs and capital expenses of the authority in exercising its functions”.

In short, that is the feasibility study and consultation on establishment of a national park in Galloway that we have long asked for.

Galloway National Park Association has already provided a strong case for a national park in Galloway to help to balance development and environmental pressures in the area, and to bring considerable social and economic benefits, but that has fallen on deaf ears. I do not buy the Scottish Government’s excuse that South of Scotland Enterprise and the borderlands growth deal will fulfil many of the economic and environmental aims that would be delivered by a national park. Cairngorms national park is in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise area and Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park is split between the HIE and Scottish Enterprise areas, so the SOSE argument does not hold water.

More worryingly, the minister stated in a letter to me this week:

“it would not be appropriate at this time to set out plans to undertake feasibility studies to designate new national parks when the focus must be on managing the coronavirus pandemic, building a green recovery and progressing current plans to address climate change and biodiversity loss.”

I know that Mr Macpherson is new in his role, but that is like saying “We don’t want new national parks because we’re focusing on the very things that new national parks would help us to achieve”.

I thank stakeholders for their representations. On a first read, NFU Scotland appears to oppose a national park. However, on closer examination, its position is similar to Scottish Land & Estates’ position. They both pretty much say that they are reserving judgment until they know more about the issues and opportunities that might come from national park status. I agree with that; that is the position that I take.

I will be the first person to reject national park status for Galloway if a feasibility study suggests that it would fail to pursue sustainable economic and social development of local communities alongside conservation and recreation. The Galloway countryside looks as it does right now because of farming practices over the centuries, so farming would be critical to achieving the national park’s objectives.

There would be an increased emphasis on supporting future farm innovation, diversification and market development, which is particularly important post Brexit, and with future climate change measures that will herald a period of significant change. The area would undoubtedly attract additional funding to provide support and advice for farming and rural businesses. Indeed, higher levels of resources tend to be available to farmers within national parks than to those outwith them.

I believe that we can address any unanswered questions and concerns through the formal process that the Scottish Government should undertake. Scotland’s existing national parks currently lead the way in tackling the climate emergency and nature crisis, in promoting mental and physical health and wellbeing, in boosting rural employment and in celebrating our world-class landscapes.

Existing and new national parks would, therefore, be ideally placed to kick-start the green future that remote and rural areas now require. Scotland needs more national parks, including in Galloway. I urge Ben Macpherson to reconsider his position. His Government often tells us that Scotland is world leading. I point out to him that Chile has created five new national parks that cover more than 10 million acres. If a developing nation such as Chile can designate more national parks, surely Scotland can.

17:30  

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I welcome the opportunity to make the case again for a Galloway national park. However, it is frustrating that, weeks before the end of the current session of Parliament, we are debating a motion that simply

“notes calls for the Scottish Government to set out ... its position”.

It is more than a year since Parliament unanimously agreed to support my motion—not only recognising the contribution that our national parks make, but agreeing that new national parks should be designated. Sadly, the will of Parliament has, so far, been ignored.

It is more than 20 years since Parliament passed the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000, which paved the way for the then Labour-led Scottish Executive to create Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park in 2002 and the Cairngorms national park in 2003. The parks have delivered social, economic and environmental boosts for the areas, but we know that there is unfinished business. Despite Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, and despite the fact that national park status is a successful and internationally recognised brand, we still have just two national parks in Scotland. We can compare that with 10 in England and three in Wales, and with the situation in topographically similar countries such as New Zealand, which has 14 national parks, and Norway, which has 37.

Given our world-class scenery, the protection and management that national parks provide for that scenery, and the positive impact on tourism and rural development of the national park brand, the case for expanding the number of parks in Scotland is absolutely compelling. That is why it is Labour policy, going into the next election, to do just that, and to go further by strengthening local accountability, which is important. National parks are already governed by people who are directly elected from the local community, along with local councillors and national experts. We believe that the proportion of local representatives on boards should be a bit higher—a move that is already allowed under the legislation. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all model for a national park. Despite the myths, the way in which a new national park would work, including planning, would be developed by the local community to meet the needs of that community.

There is no stronger case—and no stronger community support for a new national park—than the case that has been made by the Galloway National Park Association’s campaign. It has previously highlighted that park status could add between 250,000 and 500,000 new visits each year to Galloway and South Ayrshire, which would be worth between £30 million and £60 million in additional spend, thereby helping to create and support between 700 and 1,400 additional jobs. Even before the current pandemic, the weaknesses and challenges of the local economy in one of the most peripheral parts of Scotland were there for all to see, so the economic boost that a Galloway national park could bring was needed. That need is now more important than ever.

A Galloway national park would play a part in our region by leading the way not only in Scotland’s economic recovery, but in our environmental recovery. Last year, the Scottish Government gave a commitment to increase our protected areas for nature to at least 30 per cent of Scotland’s terrestrial area by 2030, in line with the international Campaign for Nature. However, with the clock ticking, we currently sit at just 23 per cent. Across the UK, that target is being met by designating new national parks, so Scotland is in danger of being left behind.

In conclusion, I note that there is a saying that we hear in Dumfries and Galloway: “That’s how it’s ayewis been.” It is a saying that has not served our region well. If we are to build back better after the pandemic, we in Dumfries and Galloway need to raise our game. The young people who leave our region—not because they want to, but because they have to—should not have to accept that that’s how it’s ayewis been. Those who live in poverty—we are the region in Scotland with the lowest pay—should not have to accept it. When we compare the level of tourism in Dumfries and Galloway with many other areas of the country and see that it is lower, and when we know just how much our region has to offer, we should not—and we cannot—accept that that’s how it’s ayewis been.

There will not be many opportunities to give the economy of Dumfries and Galloway a boost. A new national park is not a panacea, but it offers a rare chance to make a difference, and to complement the environmental work of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and the economic work of the new South of Scotland Enterprise agency and the borderlands agreement. The Galloway National Park Association has submitted a detailed report to the Scottish Government, asking it to carry out a feasibility study. I hope that we will get a commitment today from the minister to do just that, and that we can take a step towards completing that unfinished business.

17:34  

Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

I thank Emma Harper for bringing the motion to the chamber. It is not my place, living as far as I do from Galloway, to tell Gallovidians whether they should have a national park or where it might be. However, I welcome the debate about that and about the benefits that national parks can bring. I will try to contribute to it by mentioning the conversations that have already taken place on the issue in my constituency.

However, before I do that, I want to say something that I think many others have already said today: that the south-west is a beautiful part of Scotland that more visitors really deserve to know something about. I hope that, when we get past the current crisis, people in Scotland and beyond will realise what a wonderful part of Scotland Galloway is.

As someone who, many years ago, walked the whole of the Southern upland way, from Portpatrick, through Galloway, and on to the east, I can confirm that Galloway has landscapes that rival anything else in Scotland. It also has a fascinating history, with speakers of Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon—later, Scots—and Brythonic—that is, Welsh—cohabiting in a landscape that was made famous throughout medieval Europe in French by the long poem about Fergus of Galloway.

Before I digress on any of that, however, I wish to say that more people should see Galloway. The national park idea might be a way of achieving that, if that is what Galloway chooses.

Let me offer a few insights into national parks from the Isle of Harris, in my constituency. Galloway suffers, I suspect, from some of the same challenges as Harris, including depopulation that is exacerbated by a housing market that is increasingly aimed, and priced, at moneyed retirees.

That is why the model for a national park that was promoted in the community in Harris some years ago was aimed at protecting not just the natural environment, but the human one. That model aims to encompass development of the cultural uniqueness of the place and its need for economic development and housing. As someone who personally recoils from the word “wilderness”, at least when it is used to describe places in the world that have in fact been inhabited for centuries, those are all important factors.

Conversely, in Harris, as in Galloway, people are aware of the need to ensure that any hypothetical national park would sustainably manage numbers of tourists. People, it must be admitted, have a tendency to go on holiday where they are told to go. If the community in Galloway has the lead in the various debates on the matter, I am sure that it is more than capable of taking the right decisions.

In Harris, the people voted in a referendum in favour of a national park. In the end, however, the necessary buy-in to the idea from the local authority was not there. The idea has, so far, not progressed, although it might appear again in the future, given the hard work that went into producing the original proposals.

With those observations from elsewhere, I wish people in Galloway every success as they reach their decision about whether to pursue a national park. I hope that today’s debate helps to move that conversation forward.

17:38  

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Ben Macpherson)

The contribution that our national parks make to conserving our natural environment and delivering sustainable economic growth is unquestioned, and it has been emphasised by colleagues today, quite rightly. The work of national parks in protecting species and habitats, promoting tourism, facilitating the enjoyment and health benefits of using the outdoors and promoting local and national priorities is fully recognised and very much valued by the Scottish Government.

I thank Emma Harper for drawing this important issue to our attention and I acknowledge the considerable work that has been undertaken by the Galloway National Park Association on its aspirations for the area as a whole, including a new national park.

Galloway is an area of outstanding natural beauty that boasts an abundance of wildlife, superb coastlines and scenic uplands. It is home to Scotland’s first dark sky park, sited in the ancient Galloway forest park, and it is an internationally designated UNESCO biosphere. In recognition of its unique landscape, the area also has three designated national scenic areas.

In recognition of the importance of the Galloway area, and in relation to the matters under discussion today, my predecessor Mairi Gougeon met the Galloway National Park Association and Finlay Carson MSP a number of times to explain the Scottish Government’s long-standing position on the designation of new national parks. Although we fully understand the desire to maximise the benefits of the area and the enthusiasm for a new national park designation, the Scottish Government’s position remains unchanged at present, with no plans to designate new national parks in Scotland.

There are a number of good reasons for that position, which I will set out in more detail. I appreciate that there is a long-standing belief among campaigners that national park status provides the top accolade with regard to environmental designation and safeguards against potential development. However, national parks are by no means the only positive landscape designation to recognise an area’s natural heritage and to stimulate its potential economic growth: the south of Scotland currently benefits from a range of designations that recognise its landscape and are aimed at increasing tourism, boosting jobs and bringing investment to the area—aspirations and aims that members have, rightly, highlighted today.

I am keen to ensure that we make the best possible use of existing designations. As I mentioned, the south of Scotland is home to a biosphere, the Galloway forest park, national nature reserves, and several sites of special scientific interest and special areas of conservation. National park status is one of many landscape designations that can help boost the economic opportunities of an area, but it is not the only one.

I fully recognise that the south of Scotland has a particular set of socioeconomic challenges that need to be addressed, which is why we are making significant investment in the area. The new south of Scotland economic partnership and the Borderlands inclusive growth deal—more than £400 million in total—have a key role in addressing the economic issues in the area and driving growth and tourism. Until the new partnership has had time to bed in and the significant investment in the Borderlands inclusive growth deal has had time to take effect, we do not believe that it would be appropriate to make further commitments on the scale and significance that national park designation would require. There is a process of consideration to go through in the years ahead, which we can do collectively.

The Scottish Government has real concerns over the costs that would be associated with the designation of new national parks in Scotland. I am afraid that we do not share the optimism that meaningful new parks could be set up at minimal cost. The associated costs would be considerable and involve a complex process of consultation and consideration by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament.

Timescales are estimated at between two and four years, depending on the level of support, functions and governance structure that are suggested. Our existing national parks have combined annual budgets of more than £18 million in 2021-22, which, in part, recognise the additional financial pressures and challenges that the response to the Covid-19 pandemic has required; I alluded to that in my letter to Mr Carson this week. We therefore need to consider, appropriately and prudently, the affordability of additional investment on this scale at this time, given the pressures that existing national parks, tourism and hospitality and, more generally, public finances currently face. We have to be explicit and realistic in that regard.

Although the Scottish Government and I fully recognise the Galloway National Park Association’s strong desire to build on the remarkable success of our existing national parks, as well as its enthusiasm and that of MSP colleagues who have spoken today, I am aware that not everyone shares the same level of enthusiasm. As has been referenced, the NFUS has reservations about the proposals. Such differing views simply demonstrate the need to balance interests and ensure that we maximise the potential benefits of the area’s existing designations and opportunities. The new South of Scotland Enterprise agency has an important role to play in that regard.

As I said, the creation of a new national park requires considerable planning and carries cost implications. Given the considerations that I have outlined, we believe that, at present, it is essential to focus support on our two existing national parks to ensure that they continue their valuable contribution to tourism and sustainable rural economic development.

I pay tribute to all members who have spoken today, and to those who have campaigned on the issue. In particular, I pay tribute to the Galloway National Park Association for its work so far. The Scottish Government looks forward to continued engagement with the association and constituency and regional MSPs on how we can appropriately progress our shared aspirations to enhance and recognise the natural environment and other interests in Galloway and, more widely, the south of Scotland.

I thank members for their contributions, and the association for its work. I thank Emma Harper for bringing the topic to the Parliament for debate. As I said, we should continue to talk, engage and work together.

Meeting closed at 17:46.