Weekly Poll – A New National Park for Scotland
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 3 October 2022 we asked a question about the development of a new National Park for Scotland.
Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.
Question. Do you support proposals to establish a new National Park in Scotland by 2026?
- Yes – 88% (87 respondents)
- No – 12% (12 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
A New National Park for Scotland
In 1997, Government announced that National Parks should be established to care for some of Scotland’s most special places and proposed that the first should be in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, followed soon after by the Cairngorms. NatureScot has been asked by the Scottish Government to work with them in establishing at least one new National Park in Scotland by 2026. To achieve this, a period of public consultation will take place looking at what people value about Scottish National Parks. This includes what these areas should deliver in future – in particular, how they can help to protect and restore nature, tackle climate change and promote sustainable land use.
The majority of respondents (88%) agreed with proposals to establish a new National Park in Scotland by 2026. When reflecting on their stance, respondents recognised the benefits to the environment, economy, health and wellbeing.
“Conserving more natural places is essential, including protecting the habitat from erosion.”
“It will help disabled people to stay mentally and physically happier and healthy.”
“Any protected area for the benefit of wildlife and nature will be supported by me. I am a firm believer in getting nature looked after.”
“A new National Park will give even more people access to the countryside and help with mental health issues.”
“National Parks conserve the area and also bring tourists creating jobs and boosting economy.”
“Scotland has so many beautiful spaces and further work that will take place to preserve this is very welcome. I also think it will benefit the health and wellbeing of disabled people if designed and delivered correctly.”
Some concerns were raised on the financial implications of creating a new National Park and whether this was considered a priority during the current cost of living crisis.
“Who is going to pay for this, there are other problems that need to be tackled in this country like NHS, schools, housing, unemployment, crime etc. The National Trust can’t even run the properties that they have already, adding additional parks to their portfolio will make it worse, they already waste money on non-essentials, no this is not a necessity. Money could be spent on what is really necessary.”
“While I support the idea of a new National Park in Scotland by 2026, I think that we need to remember that we are in a major cost of living crisis and money needs to be available and spent elsewhere. So, if they push the date of the National Park back by a year or so I would not be too concerned or disappointed.”
Access and Inclusion
Respondents shared their views on the key factors that are required to ensure that a new National Park is accessible and inclusive for disabled people.
Respondents commented on the importance of ensuring that areas of a new National Park feature level access pathways that are suitable for mobility scooters, wheelchairs, adaptive bikes and prams.
“Far too often parks of all kinds don’t have a proper path, so trying to either walk or use a wheelchair is near impossible. I respect the fact that they are parks and should be “wild” as possible, but there still should be at least one pathway for not just disabled but people with prams and anything else that needs a good flat surface.”
“Paths need to be made for all levels of accessibility so that those with walking aids and wheelchairs can get around. I also feel a separate path for disabled people is essential so that cyclists and scooters are not whizzing past.”
“As a wheelchair user, I would appreciate if some of the footpaths are wheelchair accessible, i.e., wide enough for a wheelchair and hard surfaced for easy access with no excessive inclines and no obstacles in the way.”
“Having a network of usable paths which will be available to those who require steadier under foot or wheeled access would be important.”
It is beneficial for people with reduced mobility to have benches and shelters available at regular interval stops. Consideration must also be taken on the placing of benches and shelters, which may create a barrier for people with vision loss.
“Seating is a must. I personally have struggled to go in a park of any kind because of lack of seating. I want to keep my independence as much as possible but when we know there is no seating, I usually have to forgo going to that area or use my wheelchair, which again is hard because of uneven surfaces.”
“Path passing places, benches and perch stools should be provided at intervals.”
“Areas for shelter in case of bad weather, as well as to be used for taking photos. I’m not asking for a bothy, but somewhere safe with seating and enough space for wheelchairs in a suitable space.”
“Benches are a must, but also need to be careful that this does not create too much path clutter which then becomes unwieldy for disabled people.”
Buildings that are located in the National Park must be accessible. This includes step-free access to the entrance, wide enough doorways and corridors, suitable lighting and acoustics.
“Public buildings whether old or new need to be fully accessible. I have hearing loss so hearing loops are essential.”
“Visitor centres / restaurants should be fully accessible and inclusive.”
“Any visitor centres need to be wheelchair accessible.”
Respondents highlighted the importance of ensuring that there are adequate accessible toilet facilities for disabled people. This includes Changing Places Toilets, which provides sufficient space and equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist for people who are not able to use the toilet independently.
“Ensure disabled toilets are available – the inability to toilet properly prevents many disabled people getting out.”
“Please ensure there are adequate (and several) disabled access toilet facilities and that they are checked and regularly cleaned!”
“Any increase in toilet/changing facilities will be very welcome as councils have cut facilities due to funding and staffing practicalities.”
“Changing Places Toilets are prevalent in leisure centres, town halls etc. There needs to be this facility in any new National Park – as well as existing ones.”
There must also be strong transport links that are accessible for disabled people. Respondents noted that to achieve this there must be sufficient blue badge spaces and accessible modes of public transport.
“The most important factor is that all motorists should be banned except for electric cars and holders of disabled parking permits. Parking should be available just outside the National Park and it should have electric charging points.”
“Ensure sufficient disabled parking is available, possibly at more frequent spaces. Limiting more remote areas to disabled only parking would limit the amount of traffic in an area but still allow disabled people access.”
“One point that needs to be considered now when looking at Blue Badge parking spots is the additional factor of it having a charging point for electric vehicles.”
“There must be good connections to different modes of public transport that would assist disabled people who are unable to drive. This could be accessible shuttle buses. Ideally the new park would also have close links to rail.”
“Taxi access and maybe hire facilities for mobility scooters etc.”
Some respondents also noted the importance of using transport within the National Park to assist disabled people with reduced mobility.
“Reasonable ‘accessible’ trails including the opportunity to be escorted and transported up and down steep hills, preferably on ‘green’ transport, of sorts. Be this adapted wheelchair, adapted trailer or covered bus type transport.”
“If it’s a rugged area then assisted access should be available with possibly transport to various parts, similar to Culzean castle and ground who have transport around various locations within the grounds.”
Information and Signage
Information about the National Park, including how to navigate and access services must be produced in a variety of accessible formats. Examples of accessible formats include audio, Braille, British Sign Language (BSL), Easy Read, large print, and plaint text. It is also important to embed accessible information principles such as concise messaging that avoids jargon, using a clear, plain font, and ensuring there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colours.
“Ensuring that information about the park is available to people during walks is accessible. Too many signs are cluttered and not accessible for the majority of people.”
“I’d like to hear audio descriptions and highlights if my travels and perhaps BSL video giving the same information. My list is not meant to be exhaustive, simply, what came to mind on reading requirements.”
“If there is information anywhere in the park for it to be available in braille, Gaelic and BSL.”
Engage with Disabled People
An inclusive design approach ensures that disabled people are involved in the development of a new National Park from the very beginning. This includes proactive engagement with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and Access Panels across Scotland. Access Panels are groups of disabled volunteers who work together to improve physical access and wider social inclusion in their local communities. More information can be found at: www.accesspanel.scot
“Don’t leave disabled people behind – we want to get out there too! It’s really just a case of incorporating inclusive design right from the start – meaning consultation with the right people at the right time saves time and trouble later on.”
“What should be considered for the existing National Parks and others is for them to have their own Access Panel made up of people who have experience in access to the countryside and open space and are also knowledgeable about SOAC (Scottish Outdoor Access Code).”
“I do support the idea of a National Park in Scotland and I would hope that the government and other organisations would work with a range of disability organisations to make sure that they get access right for disabled people.”
“I think a steering party should be set up with people from all types of disabilities to ensure all types of access are considered not just the obvious ones. e.g. – if blind – tactile paths with speaking signs.”
“Ask people for ideas. Don’t be afraid to challenge embedded elitist structures. This land is our land, not for the few but for the many.”
“Local Access Panels should be consulted / involved at the earliest stage.”
The majority of respondents (88%) agreed with the proposal to introduce a new National Park for Scotland and reflected on the benefits to the environment, economy, health and wellbeing. When considering the aspects that would help to make a new National Park inclusive for disabled people, respondents shared suggestions covering accessible pathways and buildings, availability of seating, strong transport links and producing information in alternative formats. It is important that inclusive design is embedded in the development process which can be achieved through proactive engagement with disabled people, Disabled People’s Organisations and Access Panels across Scotland.