Scottish Borders could ‘not cope’ with National Park status says councillor

Sunday June 4th 2023

Kelso Abbey

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

Scottish Borders does not have the infrastructure in place to cope with the influx of tourists which would result should the area be granted National Park status, a concerned councillor has warned.

There are currently 10 National Parks in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland – at Cairngorms and Loch Lomand and The Trossachs.

The SNP government is committed to create more parks in a partnership with the Green Party.

The benefits of a National Park are seen as supporting the economy and preserving the area’s landscape and cultural heritage for perpetuity.

At a meeting of Cheviot Area Partnership on Wednesday, Malcolm Dickson, a member of the Scottish Borders National Park Campaign Group, urged SBC to back a bid for National Park status.

But he encountered some scepticism on the ability of the Borders to cope with such a status from Kelso & District ward councillor Councillor Tom Weatherston, who said: “Kelso suffers from a chronic shortage of beds. Kelso has the ability to attract greater numbers of visitors but we are losing out big style because we don’t have enough beds.

“Floors Castle had three major events last year and folks bought their tickets only to discover they couldn’t get a bed for the night and some of them ended up in Edinburgh.

“Springwood Park is at a level where it can attract campers for certain events but the conference type work and all that sort of stuff goes to Peebles because Kelso does not have enough beds.

“If this proposal is going to bring more tourists to the area, where are they going to stay? We also have a shortage of parking in Kelso, we have to build houses left right and centre in the next 30 years around this area. My opinion is that the infrastructure is not there to deal with a huge number of tourists – we’re just not ready for it.”

In response Mr Dickson said : “I hear what you are saying and there are challenges but I also think they are challenges that a National Park would help SBC address.

“You say ‘not enough beds’. The first thing that strikes me is that there is a large British hotel chain that declared four or five years go that one of its ambitions was to have a new hotel in every National Park in the United Kingdom. You could say ‘good luck with that’ but that’s the kind of thing that a National Park attracts.

“Many of our tourist ventures in the Scottish Borders are small scale, farm cottages perhaps, and that trend will continue I would imagine as farming becomes more mechanised and so what a National Park would do would be to encourage the growth of that sort of tourism.

“I know that’s not enough beds to support a big event at Floors Castle, but with the success of using venues like that as attractions for people from outside the Borders there are challenges but we have to welcome those challenges.”

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