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Reviewing our Partnership Plan: Main Findings

This page has been updated to reflect delivery in the first three years of the National Park Partnership Plan (2018-2021).

The National Park Partnership Plan sets out the overarching vision to guide how all those with a role in looking after the National Park will work together over five years to ensure a successful, sustainable future for this iconic place.

This Review presents the findings for the first three years of the Plan’s delivery, from April 2018 to March 2021. It compiles new and existing information on the Plan’s Indicators of Success and their targets. It sits against the backdrop of significant change since the Plan was launched in March 2018. Please see the background information for more information of the Partnership Plan and the purpose of this review.

It is important to note that the Indicators of Success are intentionally not exhaustive, instead focusing on key areas that are indicative of the outcomes, principles and priorities across the Plan. Regardless of progress against these indicators, we recognise the dedication, passion and ingenuity of all the people – including National Park staff and board members, volunteers, and our partners – delivering across the National Park during unprecedented and particularly challenging times over the past three years.

Indicators of Success: Main findings

When reviewing progress in the first three years of the Plan (2018-21), we can categorise these indicators into cross-cutting themes and Indicator-specific themes. All figures are as of the 31st of March 2021.

Cross-cutting themes

  • Putting national policy into practice – Progress across the Indicators during the first three years of the Plan demonstrates the role the National Park plays in implementing and integrating national priorities, particularly in critically important areas such as the climate and nature crises, empowering our communities and changing how we use our land.
  • Partnership working – Findings also highlight that underpinning all delivery is a significant pipeline of work in development and a deep commitment to partnership working.
  • Significant change – The review sits against the backdrop of significant local, regional and global change since the Plan was adopted in March 2018. This includes the declaration of the Climate Emergency and the Nature Crisis, the UK’s exit from the European Union, and the wide-reaching impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Indicator-specific findings

Four of the Indicators of Success were performing well, with progress being on track or above target for:

  • Volunteering (Indicator 9): Target of 20% increase to number of volunteers and volunteer hours by 2023 met or exceeded by March 2020, with a 41% increase in number of volunteers and a 20% increase in volunteer hours. Volunteer numbers were maintained during 2020/21.
  • Outdoor learning (Indicator 10): 2,500 young people per year target met in years 2018/19 and 2019/20 but we were unable to meet this figure in 2020/21 due to pandemic restrictions.
  • Affordable housing (Indicator 11): 75% of homes built during the period were affordable, exceeding the target of 25% of homes by 2023.
  • Community-identified projects (Indicator 13): 100 projects delivered has been delivered, exceeding the target of 66 projects (3 projects per Community Action Plan) by 2023.

Two Indicators found that while progress has been made against the Plan’s objectives, the Covid-19 pandemic had fundamentally changed our operating environment with regards to:

  • Visitor economy (Indicator 7): Target to increase the overall economic impact from the tourism economy by 2023 was being met prior to the pandemic but took a sharp decline in 2020.
  • Skills development opportunities (Indicator 14): With many skills development activities taking place in person in the National Park, the target to increase them was heavily impacted by the pandemic. The imperatives of the Green recovery and Just Transition have brought the role of rural skills development into sharp focus.

Two Indicators are not providing the insight needed, perhaps proving unfit for purpose, a better understanding is required for those covering:

  • Active recreation (Indicator 6): The 2019/20 Visitor Survey shows a decrease in active forms of recreation (main activity) and in low-level walking (all activities). This is inconsistent with experience on the ground and national trends in outdoor recreation.
  • Reported visitor experience (Indicator 8): The 2019/20 Visitor Survey shows little variance in experience for people with protected characteristics. This is inconsistent with experience on the ground and national trends in outdoor recreation. It is likely that the small number of respondents with protected characteristic(s) in the survey sample is ‘hiding’ important variances.

Lastly, findings under six Indicators show good progress but not at the scale and extent sought by the Plan. It is unlikely we will meet the targets in these areas by 2023. The review found that the required step change is being held back by the constraints of the system we are working in.

  • Woodland creation (Indicator 1): 585.42ha of woodland have been created of a target of 2,000 by 2023.
  • Peatland restoration (Indicator 2): 416ha of peatland restoration has been carried out of a target of 2,000 by 2023.
  • Designated site features (Indicator 3): 84% of our designated site features are in favourable or recovering condition of a target of 90% by 2023.
  • Water body condition (Indicator 4): Timely data was not available at the time of the review, but it is unlikely that significant progress has been against the target as the main environmental pressures on our water bodies remain.
  • Public and active travel (Indicator 5): Findings were mixed, but there was nothing to suggest that significant progress has been made on reducing car-dependency in travelling to and around the National Park.
  • Sustainable places (Indicator 12): Projects have been completed in 2 communities of a target to deliver in 15 communities by 2023 (3 per year of the Plan).

What next?

As we review progress of the Plan so far it is clear that many of the outcomes developed in 2018 remain valid but we are now operating in an environment that has seen fundamental change.

The most significant of these changes are the ones posed by the climate and nature emergencies. There is now greater urgency to our work across the Plan but specifically within areas related to these crises.

We are at a pivotal moment to respond to these changes and, as a protected landscape delivering for Scotland, the National Park should be at the forefront of this work. We need to be bold in our ambitions to meet these challenges and this will require continued co-ordination and collective effort from everyone who has a role to deliver for the National Park.

The progress outlined in this Review shows both what can be achieved when we work together in partnership and also highlights the systemic constraints we are faced with. We are already working to address these issues through programmes such as our emerging Future Nature approach, and this will be a key theme as we approach development of the next National Park Partnership Plan and other strategic plans in 2022/23.

In the meantime, as we continue delivery of the current Plan it is important that we maintain our clarity of purpose, vision and ambition.

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