Both East and South Ayrshire Councils will be asked to give their backing to a campaign to make a new national park across Ayrshire and Galloway.

Proposals for the Galloway National Park say that parts of Ayrshire, such as Girvan and Dalmellington, would see direct benefits from a park, despite being outwith the designated site.

The majority of the park would be in Dumfries and Galloway, with small parts of East and South Ayrshire also likely to be incorporated.

The Galloway National Park Association (GNPA) was set up eight years ago to make the case for a park.

With two existing national parks at Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms, there was no indication that a new park was on the cards.

However, in 2022 the Scottish Government launched a consultation on the future for national parks, seeking views on the role they could play in restoring nature, tackling climate change, promote sustainable land use as well as community wellbeing.

The government has promised to designate at least one new National Park within the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament.

Any new national park should be designated in response to local community demand.

It should also support progressive development, address the climate emergency in the way we use our land and improve public and community wellbeing.

Nominations for a new national park opened in October, with a deadline at the end of February.

A report to East Ayrshire Council’s cabinet states: “Current indications are that around ten nominations are likely to be submitted.

“The area for a Galloway National Park is the most south-western corner of Scotland forming a substantial part of the ancient kingdom of Galloway.

“The area lies mainly to the south and west of a line from Dalmellington to Castle Douglas, curving in the south-east to meet the Nith estuary, and to the north-west sweeping south round much of the Plateau Moorland (Ayrshire) to take in part of the Ayrshire coast.

“The area is of outstanding national importance due to its natural and widely recognised cultural heritage and overlaps the UNESCO Biosphere.

"At its heart are the wild lands surrounding the Merrick (843m). This distinctive granite high ground is interspersed with Galloway Forest Park and Dark Sky Park.”

The GNPA state that significant economic benefits will flow to the gateway towns outside the nomination area, and these would include Girvan and Dalmellington.

There are almost 100 conservation designations in the proposed site.

It also contains:

  • A quarter of Scotland’s saltmarsh habitat
  • 200 km of coastal cliff and slope
  • The largest sand dune system in southern Scotland
  • A minimum of 8,090 recorded species
  • All  species of Scotland’s bats, native reptiles and amphibians
  • The greatest diversity of butterfly and moth species in Scotland
  •  A mix of northern/highland and southern/lowland species, many at the edges of their ranges 
  • The Galloway International Dark Sky Park.

The report suggests that national parks could bring additional government funding, international recognition, visitors, encourage outdoor recreation and health benefits.

It would also encourage inward investment and tourism and provide direct and indirect employment by the park authority.

The report does acknowledge some ‘potential disbenefits’ including perceived threats to existing businesses, the costs of setting up ‘another regulatory body and administration that entails’.

It adds that increased visitor numbers can potentially create demands that are difficult to manage.

All three Ayrshire councils are being asked to provide support ‘in principle’ given the limited details around the proposal.

If the governance and financial implications are unsatisfactory, councils could withdraw support.

Both East and South Ayrshire Council cabinets will consider supporting the park in principle this week.