Skye could be a step closer to becoming Scotland’s third national park.
Its four Highland councillors have agreed to hold a public consultation on the proposal.
Two decades after the creation of the first two parks – Loch Lomond & and Trossachs and Cairngorms – the search is on for others.
Lochaber, home to the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and deepest loch – Morar, is another contender, with a working group consulting communities on a potential bid.
A number of other areas have already submitted expressions of interest so far, including Galloway, the Scottish Borders, the Tay Forest, Affric to Alladale, Glen Affric, the Lammermuirs, Largo Bay and Loch Awe.
Community leaders on Skye have indicated that they would be happy to be guided by public opinion on the issue and are keen to hear from residents.
Highland councillor Drew Millar said: “It’s hugely important that people contribute to this debate and we’ll take their views on board.
“The application process has to be completed by the end of February, so it’s a short timescale.”
Conscious of the unprecedented toll that a massive growth in tourism has had on the island’s roads and its other basic infrastructure in recent years, he is confident that a successful bid for national park status would reap significant financial rewards in the form of public grants.
“It would be a challenge whether there’s a Skye national park or not,” he said.
“Being a national park would give us access to more funding for infrastructure. And we would hope to retain all of the new visitor transient levy that’s coming in for Skye’s infrastructure.
“But we do also have to protect our culture and heritage. Crofting and farming is very much part of that, so we have to strike a balance.”
The Scottish Government has committed to establishing at least one national park by 2026.
The deadline for submissions is February 29, with applicants asked to demonstrate “outstanding national importance due to natural or culture heritage, a distinctive character and coherent identity, how national park status would meet the specific needs of the area, and evidence of local support for the proposal”.
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater said: “Scotland’s National Parks are among our greatest assets. They are home to internationally renowned landscapes and nature, and provide outstanding opportunities for recreation and local communities. They also play a crucial role in tackling climate change and protecting our precious natural environment for future generations.
“Now is the time to add to them. We believe that a new National Park should be founded upon local community demand, which is why we are inviting communities and organisations to submit their proposals, and I look forward to seeing the full range of ideas from all across the country.”
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