As a child, long before I was privileged to join the CNPA Board in 2003, my interest in the Cairngorms was kindled by its fantastic landscapes and wildlife. Today, that interest remains as strong as it always was and I believe that being a National Park, overall, has been good for the area. My experience in the Cairngorms tells me that no single public or private interest defines the Park, its management is complex and, at times, controversial. However, in the intervening years I learnt it is much more helpful to view people as the solution rather than the problem.
In the past, issues arising from controversies were often dealt with in a reactive way. Sound evidence is important but technical, expert-driven planning processes are not particularly well suited, when used alone, for winning hearts and minds. Public interest in the Park is often expressed passionately, sometimes vaguely, as a function of local or national enthusiasms, values and ideals. A new emphasis on meeting, talking, listening by the CNPA has helped to shape what partners and citizens want from their Park.
People in the Cairngorms go to the polls early in 2015 to elect representatives from wards across the park. Five locally elected people will become members of a public body responsible for decisions affecting the largest National Park in the UK. The CNPA is increasingly under the microscope for its decisions, actions and spending and these new members are accountable to the people of Scotland.
“Are you good value for money and focused on government priorities?” are questions the Scottish Government asks of all its public bodies. By being well informed, open minded, thoughtful and asking the right questions all Board members can influence long term vision and build confidence in the CNPA.
Board members are required to build broad based constituencies, anticipate future needs and priorities for the Cairngorms National Park and present them to politicians and the wider public in Scotland. They will have to navigate between these constituencies having dialogues, solving problems and building consensus. Being an effective Board member means you can’t hang back or bang a single drum.
New members should know that the last eleven years of the CNPA have been a really exciting time – they seem to have passed in a flash as I move toward my exit in September. I’m sure the coming years will be equally rewarding, supported by committed CNPA Board colleagues and highly professional staff. By the way, hazy green winter Aurora Borealis and summer sunrises from the Lecht road are just a couple of the unadvertised rewards of being a Board member not mentioned in the job description. Oh and make sure you pack a snow shovel and warm clothing in the car -climate change has no respect for your travel plans.