THE competition to become Scotland’s third national park is heating up after Glen Affric and Loch Ness officially launched their bid on Friday.

Organisers said the area’s globally important natural and cultural heritage deserves protection and celebration, with national park status highlighted as being able to benefit both current and future generations.

Strathglass Community Council, supported by a range of partners, is leading the national park nomination, which would include part of Loch Ness and Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Rewilding Centre in Glenmoriston to the south, Kintail to the west and Beauly to the east.

The community council, supported by Scottish Government appointed consultants, is seeking stakeholder and community engagement and consultation before submitting its full nomination.

A series of local events will be held later this month, and local people and visitors to the area can make their views known via a new website:

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The Scottish Government has promised to create at least one new national park by 2026, with the current nomination process due to close on February 29.

Humphrey Clarke, chair of Strathglass Community Council, said: “We are leading on the nomination process and want to hear and represent the views of local people and stakeholders.

“We believe Affric and Loch Ness National Park would enable local people to protect and enhance our natural environment for future generations, while providing opportunities for sustainable employment and housing.

“The area is already popular with visitors, providing an important income stream in rural areas, and national park status would provide access to funding and empower local people.”

The community council believes a national park could help promote sustainable tourism and visitor management to an already popular area, including the 30-mile Glen Affric nature reserve – which contains some of Scotland’s remaining ancient Caledonian pine woodland.

The National: The Dundreggan Rewilding Centre in GlenmoristonThe Dundreggan Rewilding Centre in Glenmoriston

The nomination has already attracted support from partners and stakeholders including Trees for Life, UHI Inverness, the Institute for Biodiversity & Freshwater Conservation, Highland Councillors, local community councils and community companies, and local business owners.

Steve Micklewright, the chief executive of Trees for Life – a charity working to rewild the Scottish Highlands – said a national park could help unlock the area’s potential.

He said: “A new national park, centred on Glen Affric and extending to Loch Ness and the west coast, could enable nature restoration on a major scale in this stunning landscape of mountains, glens, lochs and ancient forests – helping biodiversity to recover and locking carbon in trees and peatland to help with the climate crisis.

“The investment that nature recovery will generate, coupled with governance involving local people, could unlock the area’s potential for local communities and visitors alike – creating a vibrant local economy that serves all who live and work in the area.

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“Trees for Life is proud to be a partner in this initiative and is committed to support the proposal as it develops.”

Professor Chris O’Neil, principal and chief executive of UHI Inverness, added: “As the local provider of further and higher education, as well as world-class academic research, we strongly support the nomination for Affric and Loch Ness National Park and are delighted to contribute our expertise to the consultation process.

“A national park designation would enhance and protect our natural environment and heritage, and we believe that would advance our own academic and social goals and contribute to the wider wellbeing.

“We also believe it would help retain and attract young people by creating sustainable employment and housing opportunities.”