Campaigners have joined forces with Scotland’s first UNESCO Biosphere to present a joint bid for parts of Ayrshire and Galloway to be declared the country’s newest National Park.

The Galloway National Park Association (GNPA) and Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere (GSABP) bid – submitted to the Scottish Government yesterday – also has the support of key organisations.

They include South Ayrshire Council, Easter Ayrshire Council, Dumfries and Gallwoay Council and South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).

Rival bids to become the next National Park have been submitted by the Scottish Borders, Lochaber, Loch Awe and Tay Forest.

The Scottish Government is committed to the creation of at least one new National Park by 2026 and called for submissions by February 29.

GNPA and the Biosphere say the range of landscapes and habitats in the area covered by a Galloway National Park make it a “Scotland in miniature”.

It would be an opportunity to build on the success of the Biosphere, which has led the way in working with local communities to protect and enhance the environment and promote a sustainable economy.

Over the past seven years GNPA has worked hand in hand with the community and built up a membership of over 1,100.

Rob Lucas, GNPA Chair, said: “Galloway is extraordinary, its rolling hills, open moorlands, mountains, rivers, lochs, rugged coasts and seascapes mean it comes as close as any region realistically can to being a Scotland in miniature.

“National Park designation would make the most of these assets, protecting and enhancing them for our common future.

“The Biosphere is already showing the way ahead, and this joint bid would build on its success, allowing us to achieve so much more.

“Galloway is one Scotland’s poorest rural regions and National Park status would be the perfect way to boost prosperity for all by building a vibrant sustainable economy.

“We have held discussions with more than 2,000 people, have the support of businesses and the public, all three local councils and the SOSE development agency – all recognise the enormous benefits this would bring.”

The combined bid stresses that the Galloway would achieve the Scottish Government’s ambitions for a new National Park to play an important role in nature recovery, assist in a just transition to net zero  and be a model for the sort of sustainable development to which the whole country aspires.

A Galloway National Park would also achieve the ambitions set out in the South of Scotland Regional Economic Strategy for the region to be “Green, Fair and Flourishing”.

Galloway has taken significant strides forward through the internationally acclaimed work of the Biosphere, which covers 9,700km2 of land and sea.

Ed Forrest, director of the biosphere, said: “Our joint bid builds on more than a decade of activity led by the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership, which has always raised the need for better investment in the natural and cultural heritage of southwest Scotland, and made even more apparent the imperative of creating new socio-economic opportunities for our rural communities and businesses. 

“We look forward to further engagement with Scottish Government as proposals are considered over the next few months.”

NatureScot will carry out a detailed investigation of the bids over the summer – and their final recommendations to Scottish Ministers on which should be accepted will then be revealed.

There is strong public and business backing for it to be in Galloway, where there is an urgent need for regeneration, as it will bring lasting and widespread benefits.

They say it will make the most of our fabulous countryside and coastlines, generate sustainable tourism, create business opportunities and jobs and put the area on the world stage.