A round up of the latest opportunities and information for businesses in the National Park
In the lead up to the UCI Cycling World Championships 2023 event in August, we have featured some useful links for businesses to help deliver high quality visitor experiences for cyclists of all levels within the National Park.
The National Park is delighted to be a host venue for the UCI CWC 2023. Balloch will host the start of the U23 Men and Elite Women Road Races on 12 and 13 August. Details of the event including the race route can be found on the UCI website.
The event will attract some of the world’s best cyclists and will provide a spotlight on Loch Lomond with television viewers across the globe, putting the area on a world stage. The event is the single biggest cycling event in history, bringing together 13 existing UCI World Championship disciplines into one mega event.
The Road Races beginning in Balloch will be free to attend for spectators, giving locals the opportunity to be involved and enjoy watching world class athletes compete in the first-of-its-kind championships.
The event will provide a springboard to encouraging visitors to explore the National Park by bike, recognising the health and environmental benefits of active travel.
The eBike Business Loan offers Scottish businesses up to £30,000 interest-free to help reduce the carbon impact and fuel costs of their transport arrangements through the purchase of ebikes.
The eBike Business Loan is funded by Transport Scotland and can help the purchase of new ebikes, up to £3,000 per bike, cargo or ecargo bikes, up to £6,000 per bike, adapted or electric adapted cycles.
If you’re interested in applying for the eBike Business Loan, please see further details including a link to an enquiry form.
Our colleagues at the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Countryside Trust have created a new free to register ‘Cycle in the Park Welcome’ scheme to help your business find out more about how to benefit from this growing visitor market.
Those who register will receive a free Business Toolkit booklet, web-listing on the Countryside Trust website and will feature in promotional campaigns.
As well as the Business Toolkit booklet, the first 30 businesses to register will also receive a “start-up pack” worth £200.
We would encourage any business interested in supporting sustainable and active travel in the National Park to register and to gain from showcasing that you are open and welcoming to cyclists.
See the Trust in the Park website for further information.
The First Minister announced changes to the Scottish Government Ministerial team. Fiona Hyslop has also been appointed as the new Minister for Transport and will report to Màiri McAllan in her new expanded remit as Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition.
As a result of the changes, responsibility for the Green Economy will move to Richard Lochhead – his new title will be Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade. The First Minister has also amended Gillian Martin’s role, whose title has changed to Minister for Energy and the Environment. She will report jointly to Neil Gray, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy and Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands.
Further information about current Cabinet and ministerial responsibilities.
The pace and scale of peatland restoration across the National Park is set to increase significantly to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.
Our Draft National Park Partnership Plan sets out a target of repairing 8,000ha of peatlands by 2030, with the aim to accelerate the rate of restoration from an average of 240ha per year to 640ha per year. This represents a significant increase on the 1,147ha of damaged peatland restored across the National Park between 2018-2023.
Around 36% (68,000ha) of land in the National Park is covered by peatlands, holding an estimated 20 million tonnes of carbon. But this is not secure.
Healthy peatlands absorb carbon and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere but with much of Scotland’s peatlands damaged by historical agricultural, forestry and other land management practices, they are currently emitting carbon and contributing to climate change.
As part of the national Peatland Action programme, we work with land managers to restore the Park’s peatlands, improving the condition of uplands traditionally used for livestock and deer grazing.
Peatland restoration helps turn a peatland that is emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases into one which locks them up and over time, absorbs them from the atmosphere. As well as capturing and storing carbon, healthy peat forms a unique and biodiverse ecosystem and can help slow the flow of water into rivers and lochs, providing natural flood management and reducing the impact of extreme weather events on communities.
Scaling up peatland restoration will also offer a wealth of green jobs. NatureScot calculates that the sector will require an additional 1,500 skilled people by 2025 to meet Scotland’s ambitious climate targets. This presents a fantastic opportunity for local businesses like DC Restoration Contracts Ltd, who have recently had to triple the size of their workforce to meet demand for peatland restoration projects.
As part of the consultation on our Draft National Park Partnership Plan, we want to hear your thoughts on our objectives to help restore nature and mitigate the impacts of climate change on our communities. Let us know your comments on how how we should restore nature for climate and use our consultation survey to tell us if you can play a role in helping meet this important aim.
Work to install the new bridge began earlier this year and was completed in March – 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. It is made from ‘weathering’ steel which was selected due to its longevity, giving up to 120 years design life. The bridge is rated as highly sustainable due to the efficient design and use of materials
An extended period of good weather this month has seen visitor numbers continue to increase and busier sites. Car parks in the most popular locations, including hill access car parks, have been filling up earlier on weekend days, with many car parks becoming full or nearly full by mid-morning.
This has resulted in irresponsible parking in some areas, which we continue to address in partnership with local authority partners, maximising efficiency, sharing information and ensuring consistency of messaging.
Traffic enforcement officers from Stirling and Argyll & Bute Councils have issued parking fines and we are continuing to provide real-time car park updates on our website between 8am-4pm on weekends. These updates are backed up with visitor messaging on our social media channels and local VMS signs, alerting visitors to areas that are at capacity and encouraging them to consider a Plan B.
Water safety has been a key focus with high visitor numbers enjoying loch side locations throughout the National Park. Our work to raise awareness of the risks and provide advice on staying safe on, in or by the water, continues in partnership with the national Water Safety Scotland group and local partners.
This has involved water safety events for members of the public at locations including Luss, Balloch and Milarrochy Bay; Rangers visiting schools; and sharing water safety advice throughout Drowning Prevention Week.
Fire safety has also been a priority this month, with ‘very high’ and ‘extreme’ wildfire risks reported. Rangers have been actively engaging with visitors on the need to avoid campfires during this time, as well as the wider camping management and responsible behaviour messaging.
National Park campsites and permit areas are now very busy. While the majority of campers enjoy the experience responsibly, a number of irresponsible campers have been issued with Fixed Penalty Notices for fly tipping and Police Scotland have also charged a number of individuals for breach of camping byelaws.
With school summer holidays underway and more people coming to visit the National Park over the summer, we are reminding residents and local communities who to contact should you need to report any visitor management issues.
We previously let you know that we had been working on a project in 2022 and 2023 to pilot a shuttle bus in the National Park. Sadly, despite the best efforts of ourselves and partners, this project will now not be delivered this summer as previously hoped, as we have been unable to secure a bus operator.
Extensive work has been ongoing in partnership with Stirling Council and local businesses, building on the learnings of the project over the last year. However, two rounds of procurement for separate bus routes within the National Park have unfortunately demonstrated that the significant challenges facing the bus industry in Scotland are still ongoing. Specifically, a lack of drivers means that the bus operators we engaged with felt they could not guarantee the capacity or resilience to provide the seasonal service we are proposing.
We remain committed to developing short term and longer-term measures to reduce car journeys to and within the National Park. We will continue to move forward with our sustainable transport work and will use the hard work and learnings from this season to inform future projects and strategies.
A comprehensive study to increase understanding of the barriers and opportunities for sustainable travel here in the Park was recently completed and we are considering how we respond to its findings and conclusions. Our National Park Journey Planner app, which allows visitors to plan sustainable journeys to the Park, also continues to run and we are looking at further improvements that can be made to this service.
With 79% of visitor journeys to the National Park made by car, there is an urgent need to improve public and active transport options in the Park. This is a core theme identified in our Draft National Park Partnership Plan for 2024-29, which is currently out for consultation. As well as reducing emissions and relieving pressure on congested local roads, viable car-free travel options will also make the National Park a more inclusive visitor destination for those who do not have access to a car. Let us know your comments on how we can help provide low-carbon travel for everyone and use our consultation survey to tell us what role you can play in transforming the National Park into a sustainable, low-carbon destination.
Scotland’s rainforest is internationally important habitat and a significant part of the world’s temperate rainforest. The National Park contains over 7% of Scotland’s rainforest and the majority of this is found around Loch Lomond itself.
As part of our Future Nature commitment to restoring nature in the National Park, we have identified potential for a bold, landscape-scale partnership to deliver a project that will protect the remaining remnants of Scotland’s rainforest here in the National Park.
Managing the rainforest by the removing invasive rhododendron and establishing the right level of grazing animals will also help provide the right conditions for the rainforest to rejuvenate and expand. This video show examples of this work in action in a section of rainforest found at Inversnaid on the east side of Loch Lomond.
Through rainforest restoration, there is also a huge potential to deliver a just transition for land managers and National Park communities through an increase in training opportunities to establish and retain a local contractors. It is also an important opportunity to engage and educate communities within the National Park about the importance of the rainforest, creating volunteer opportunities and also exploring opportunities to engage visitors in the rainforest environment.
For now, the idea of a Loch Lomond Rainforest partnership project is still at an early, concept stage. We have commissioned an initial scoping exercise which will seek to gather the views of land managers and local communities, to work up more detail on what is needed to restore the rainforest and create opportunities for the local community. This scoping work will begin in September and we hope to share the results of this with you in April 2024.
In the meantime, we are still keen to hear from you about any other ideas you have for nature restoration projects in your area which will help us to meet our Future Nature vision. Please use our Future Nature Expression of Interest Form to let us know about any ideas you might have.
Please also let us know how we can work together to restore nature in the National Park by submitting your thoughts as part of our consultation on the Draft National Park Partnership Plan.