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Protest to be held against Cairngorms National Park five-year plans which ‘threaten jobs’

Cairngorms National Park.
Cairngorms National Park.

Rural workers in Britain’s biggest national park will hold an online protest over plans they say threatens jobs and red-listed species.

Members of the Grampian Moorland Group have organised a protest against the Cairngorms National Park Authority Partnership Plan to take place on Wednesday.

The group chose to organise the Protest in the Park as an online event due to the high number of Covid cases at the time they were planning the protest.

Members are asking people to sign their online petition supporting their protest or to write to their local MSPs.

The draft plan for the next five years proposes deer culling to allow the woodlands to flourish as well as changes to game bird management and the introduction of affordable housing.

Despite the plans receiving a record response – a total of 1,400 replies made up of more than 700 local individuals, landowners and businesses – members of the group are slamming the blueprints.

Leslie George, from Grampian Moorland Group, works in Donside and believes the plans will threaten jobs in the park and believes game and farming sectors are being “singled out”.

Capercaillie in the Cairngorms National Park. Picture by Kirk Norbury.

He said: “No one has seen any plan from the park’s board as to how they intend to replace lost jobs in our sector. We don’t feel the park is working for the people of the land anymore.

“The plan favours rewilding but no assessment has been done on how rewilding will support red-listed or declining species such as curlew, mountain hares and capercaillie in the park.

“Where I am, in Donside, the plan says huge swathes should be planted in trees. What will that do to good farmland and food security? What does it mean for farming jobs in the area?”

Scottish Gamekeepers Association backing protest

Other moorland groups across Scotland will join the protest, with support from shepherds and hill farmers concerned at the loss of farmland to trees within the park.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is also backing the protest in solidarity with its members in the park.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg has written to park convener, Xander McDade, asking how the proposals came to be included in the draft plan, which went out for public consultation in winter 2021.

He has also asked for evidence that the proposed afforestation will definitely benefit Scotland’s quest to be Net Zero by 2045, with huge amounts of carbon already stored in existing land in the park.

Mr Hogg said: “Whilst we agree with well-considered tree planting, there is a lack of long-term data in general in Scotland about the carbon benefits of planting trees on organic rich soils.

“If we don’t know what is already there, how do we know if schemes are going to work or are even helpful?”

He also questioned the extent of the targeted deer culls, saying it is likely to deter humane deer management in the park rather than encourage it.

The plan will be finalised and go to the board for approval before being sent to Scottish ministers in the summer.

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