A round up of the latest opportunities and information for businesses in the National Park.
New training from Keep Scotland Beautiful highlights the link between climate change and the biodiversity crisis, exploring how organisations, businesses and individuals can lower emissions to protect nature through low carbon behaviours and nature-based solutions. Further information can be found on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website.
A business led approach to addressing the challenges of staff recruitment and retention has secured funding to take forward a Recruitment & Retention project over the next 2 years. A Project Development Manager (Rachel Gambro) has been appointed to take forward the project with support from the National Park Destination Group, Forth Valley Food & Drink and the National Park Authority. This pilot will be unique to National Park businesses and aims to address the impact that staffing issues have experienced in in terms of reduced opening hours and reduced service. The pilot programme aims to stimulate a culture change from within the tourism and hospitality industry and to ‘raise the bar’ of quality and what can be achieved through greater rates of staff retention and by alleviated staff shortages, while supporting staff to grow within their role. The programme will create a ‘package’ focused on 3 key areas – training & development; wellbeing; and employee financial benefits.
Businesses and employees working within the National Park are asked to provide feedback – please follow the link below the short questionnaire which should take less than 5 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous.
Applications for the Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF), which supports businesses in Scotland to upskill and re-skill employees, is now open for applications. Open to all employers across Scotland, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the fund can be used to access flexible workforce development training opportunities and address priority skills gaps and training needs. Employers who are UK Apprenticeship levy-payers can access up to £15,000 worth of support, while non-levy paying SMEs can access up to £5,000 worth of support. The fund will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. It will remain open until fully allocated. The last date for applications is Monday 31st July.
It is Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023. The week of activity aims to engage young people by following the #ApprenticeShop hashtag to find out about apprenticeships from employers, learning providers and apprentices, and to showcase the different kinds of apprenticeships across Scotland, there is a campaign toolkit for more information. You can get involved by creating and posting social media content using #ApprenticeShop and #ScotAppWeek23.
Business Gateway in partnership with VisitScotland have scheduled a new programme of free webinars, available to all tourism businesses. Taking place in March, the webinars provide digital support and advice across a range of topics to improve digital skills and to help reach customers and new audiences effectively through online and social media platforms:
For further information and to book on any of the above, please visit Business Gateway online. Previous Digital Boost webinars are also available to view.
The National Park Partnership Plan guides how all of those with a role to play in looking after the National Park will work together to achieve a shared vision for the area. Our current Partnership Plan, covering 2018-2023, is available to view on our website. The next National Park Partnership Plan is due in 2024.
While the National Park Authority is responsible for drafting and consulting on this plan, the actions within it require collaboration across a wide range of partners.
An initial draft Partnership Plan for 2024-29 has been prepared over the last few months, ready for discussion and consultation with all the key stakeholders who have a role to play in its delivery and those will be impacted by its proposed outcomes.
The draft plan has been developed through ongoing engagement with key stakeholders through all the key areas of the National Park Authority’s work, internal experience and knowledge, as well as research and data gathered both by the National Park Authority and others.
A clear theme in this draft plan is how we transform the way each of us live, work in, visit and look after the National Park to achieve a more positive, sustainable future for us all. It puts forward a wide range of proposals to address the huge challenges we currently face at a local, national and global level, particularly in terms of the twin climate and nature crises.
The draft plan aims to highlight the vast opportunities that exist for setting a new direction for the National Park which faces these challenges head-on, while also shaping a positive, resilient future for the National Park’s people, nature and climate.
The National Park Authority Board will be considering this draft at their next meeting on 13th March, and if Board members approve moving this draft to the next stage of development, we will be looking to engage with your organisation to help contribute to our thinking to date. This will see a 12-week period of discussion and consultation launched later this Spring, using the draft document as a focal point for open and honest conversations with yourselves and others on how together we can shape the future of the National Park.
We look forward to working with you further to develop this plan and our strategic vision for the National Park as we approach the consultation and engagement stage. More details on the consultation and how to get involved will be provided over the coming weeks.
In the meantime, if you wish to contact us about the draft plan, please email email@example.com
In addition to our draft National Park Partnership Plan 2024-29, a number of important updates and reports are due for consideration by National Park Board members at their next meeting on Monday 13th March.
Papers for this meeting are now available to view on our website. They include:
The Board meeting will be accessible for members of the public to attend in person at National Park Headquarters in Balloch and will also be streamed live online via our website.
Last month we said a fond farewell to our outgoing Convener, James Stuart, who had served the maximum two terms in the role. Following his departure, James has written a short blog reflecting on the highlights and challenges during his time with the National Park Authority.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, our new Convener, Dr Heather Reid, shared her thoughts on her motivations and ambitions for leading the National Park Authority Board and helping to set our vision for the coming years. You can also read more from Heather on our website.
National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) was adopted by the Scottish Ministers on 13th February 2023, following approval by the Scottish Parliament in January. This replaces National Planning Framework 3 and Scottish Planning Policy. More information on what this means can be found in our Live Park blog on the new framework. Sustrans and PAS have also provided useful summaries on what impact NPF4 will have for National Park communities.
An ambitious new nature restoration project has launched to help transform an area of 50,000 hectares in the north of the National Park, benefitting wildlife, visitors, and local communities.
Stretching from the villages of Tyndrum and Crianlarich across to Killin, Strathfillan is a diverse and unique landscape, home to some of Scotland’s most iconic wildlife including Golden Eagles, Black Grouse and Atlantic Salmon. The area features a vast range of habitats, from wooded glens and winding rivers to upland heathlands and the National Park’s last remaining Caledonian pinewoods. It also supports rare montane plants, lichens, and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) due to its rich and unusual geology. However, pressures such as habitat fragmentation and overgrazing have led to habitat degradation, pushing some species and habitats – such as montane scrub – close to the brink of local extinction.
The Wild Strathfillan project will work to address these issues, as well as helping to restore some of the area’s many designated sites, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and the Breadalbane Important Plant Area. The project will also help to increase habitat connectivity and restore ecological processes across the landscape (such as flood regulation and carbon sequestration), which support the health of people and the planet.
The project will be led by Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Countryside Trust and will be delivered in partnership with land managers, local communities, NGOs, businesses, and the National Park Authority, thanks to funding from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, managed by NatureScot.
Speaking about the project, National Park Authority Future Nature Development Manager, Dom Hall, said: “The Wild Strathfillan project is an excellent example of the scale and ambition that is required to really make a difference in tackling biodiversity loss here in the National Park. It will help restore nature across a significant area of land in the north of the Park which is home to many of our most important habitats and species.
“Our Future Nature programme commits us to reversing the decline in nature by 2030 and ensuring the widespread restoration of nature in the National Park by 2040. We cannot do that alone. It is through partnerships such as Wild Strathfillan, working closely with land managers, businesses and communities within the National Park, that we will achieve the step change in ambition and delivery we need to secure a resilient, nature-rich National Park for future generations.”
To find out more about Wild Strathfillan or get involved, visit trustinthepark.org.
You can also read more about our Future Nature programme in the draft Future Nature Route Map to be reviewed by National Park Board members this month.
Anyone looking to submit ideas for nature restoration projects in the National Park can also fill in an Expression of Interest Form from our ‘Be part of Future Nature‘ webpage. This form is not an application for a specific fund, however project ideas submitted will allow us to support projects where we can and keep others in mind for additional funding or support where possible.
Last week saw Camping Management Byelaws come into effect for the 2023 season. The seasonal Camping Management Byelaws cover popular lochshore areas of the National Park from 1st March to 30th September every year. In these areas, campers can choose between staying at one of the National Park Authority’s campsites, booking a permit for one of the seasonal lochshore permit areas or staying at one of many private campsites around the National Park.
Due to felling works by Forestry & Land Scotland, there will be delays to the opening of Three Lochs Forest Drive and Tarbet Isle camping permit sites this season.
Bookings for the National Park Authority’s campsites at Loch Chon, Loch Achray and Inchcailloch also opened last week, prior to the sites opening to visitors on 1st April.
Recruitment of Seasonal Rangers to support our Ranger Service during the upcoming visitor season is also well underway. For the first time, the Ranger Service has been able to recruit permanent Seasonal Rangers, which has helped build resilience within the Ranger Service. A number of these permanent Seasonal Rangers are already assisting permanent staff at Balmaha Visitor Centre and at Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway, with more seasonal staff joining the Ranger Service to help build further resilience. These Seasonal Rangers are now starting their training.
Unprecedented visitor numbers during the Covid pandemic resulted in a more coordinated approach to visitor management in the National Park, with partners meeting regularly during the visitor season and agreeing a Joint Response Visitor Management Plan ahead of the season in recent years. All partners agreed that this approach should continue and the National Park Safe Recovery Action Group (NPSRAG), led by the Park Authority, held its first meeting in February.
The 2023 Joint Response Visitor Management Plan and accompanying table of actions has also been published last week, setting out how the National Park Authority and partners including local authorities, Forestry & Land Scotland, Police Scotland and Transport Scotland will jointly manage visitor pressures this season.
Pre-season communications are also underway, with social media advice highlighting topics including how to get your boat ready for the season and how to book a camping permit. In March we will be focusing on livestock worrying and messaging for visitors ahead of the Easter Weekend and school holidays.
This month we will also be holding a briefing session for those who live and work in the National Park to hear more about how we plan to work with our partners to manage visitors in the National Park before the season gets underway in earnest. Please look out for an invite to this landing in your inbox very soon.
Work to install a new Bracklinn Bridge began earlier this year and is now complete – providing a safe place to view the spectacular Bracklinn Falls and allowing walkers to complete the full Bracklinn Circuit route once again.
The new bridge is a simple and robust structure that fits well with the landscape of the Falls and is built to last.
Additional improvements to the site have also been installed, including benches and safety barriers. A new information panel sharing the history and culture of the area will follow soon.