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European audience hears about CNPA’s vision for buying and selling ‘public benefits’

10th November 2005

The Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has been outlining the organisation’s priorities concerning the payment of land managers for the public benefits they deliver in the Park. Speaking at a prestigious European conference in the Cairngorms, Andrew Thin welcomed the unique opportunity to share the CNPA’s progress on this issue with experts from other rural mountain areas.

Euromontana’s ‘Reaping the Benefits of Europe’s Precious Places – Policies Releasing the Potential of Mountain and Remoter Rural Areas’ event in Aviemore is an important opportunity for leading members of the international rural policy community to discuss each others knowledge in the field of paying for public benefits at a time of considerable flux in rural policy development.

Speaking at the conference Dinner (Thursday 10 November), Andrew Thin explained that many of the things that Scottish people want from the Cairngorms National Park – such as a variety of habitats supporting an array of wildlife; beautiful scenery; recreation and so on – are primarily the product of work by land managers.

“The special qualities of the Park are a consequence of interaction between people and the land for over 6,000 years and unlike most national parks, the Cairngorms National Park is largely privately owned and managed,” the CNPA Convener told delegates.

Land ownership in the Park presents the CNPA with a unique set of challenges and opportunities in relation to buying and selling public benefits, from a healthy water supply to outdoor access, and work already being undertaken by the CNPA is likely to attract interest from around the world.

Andrew Thin added: “The Park has four aims – conserving and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage; promoting sustainable use of the natural resources, supporting sustainable economic development of communities and promoting enjoyment and understanding. With much of the land privately owned we are relying on land managers and other partners to help us to deliver these aims.

“As an organisation, our long term vision is to create an effective market place where land managers are paid to deliver the public benefits the customer, for example a public body, want to see happen on the ground.

“This could effectively be payment for improved pathways on land to allow people to enjoy outdoor access safely and responsibly.  But it won’t just be about direct financial support, other mechanisms such as advice and training to help land managers deliver public benefits more effectively will also be put in place, with the CNPA’s Land Based Business Training Project playing a crucial role.

“This type of approach will be a challenge for us because we are dealing with a very traditional sector with a history of subsidy but we want to change the way that people think – both land managers and public agencies.  Paying for public benefits is not subsidy or compensation but should be viewed as a commercial transaction like any other.”

Work in relation to the buying and selling of public benefits in the Cairngorms National Park is well underway, with early submissions on the CNPA’s priorities for Land Management Contracts having recently been lodged with the Scottish Executive.