The Scottish Parliament should not agree to the general principles of the Cairngorms National Park Boundary Bill, according to a report published today by the Environment and Rural Development Committee.
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The committee agreed that a strong case had been made for the inclusion of parts of highland and eastern Perthshire within the Park boundaries, as Scottish Natural Heritage had originally recommended.
However, the committee concluded that the proposal, introduced by John Swinney MSP as a Members’ Bill, would not be the most coherent manner to approach a revision of the boundaries or ensure stable management of the Park.
Committee Convener, Maureen Macmillan MSP, said:
"Our committee very much welcomes the debate this bill has provoked and we acknowledge the passionate arguments made by many people that this area is naturally part of the Cairngorms.
"We have a lot of sympathy with the aim of including highland and eastern Perthshire in the Cairngorms National Park. Whether the bill is the right way to achieve this is hotly disputed and the arguments are finely balanced.
"On balance, the committee has voted to recommend that this Bill should be rejected. However, a review of the operation of the Park is due in 2008. We very much welcome the Executive’s statement that it expects the review to include consideration of the Park boundary.
"The committee strongly and unanimously recommends that the Park boundary should be considered as part of the review process. We look to the Executive to start preparing for this so as to avoid any undue delay and to make sure that the review involves wide public consultation.”
The bill was introduced to the Parliament on 21 September 2006 by John Swinney MSP as a Members’ bill. The Environment and Rural Development Committee was designated as the lead committee for Stage 1 scrutiny. At Stage 1, a subject committee examines the general principles of a Bill and recommends to the Parliament whether the general principles should be agreed. As part of this process, the Committee received written and oral evidence from interested parties and held a meeting in Blair Atholl on 5 February.
The bill seeks to extend the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park to include an area of highland and eastern Perthshire. It proposes that the Park should include the Forest of Atholl, including the community of Blair Atholl, the Beinn Udlamain mountain group to the west of the A9, and an area around the A93 including Glas Tulaichean and the Spittal of Glenshee (excluding Kirkmichael).
Consequential changes in the composition of the Cairngorms National Park Authority are also proposed.
At its meeting on 28 February the committee voted 5-4 to recommend that the parliament should not agree to the general principles of the bill. For: 5 (Maureen Macmillan, Alasdair Morrison, Peter Peacock, Nora Radcliffe and Elaine Smith); Against: 4 (Alex Fergusson, Rob Gibson, Richard Lochhead and Eleanor Scott); Abstentions: 0.