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Park Talk: This is me

30th October 2018

By CNPA Convener, Xander McDade

This is my first Park Talk as the new Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority and I would like to thank my predecessor, Peter Argyll, for all his work on behalf of the Board and the Park over the last three years.

As my base is in Highland Perthshire, many of you will not have heard of me before my election as Convener last month so I thought I would use my first column to introduce myself to you.

Many of you may be wondering how a 24 year old ends up becoming the Convener of a National Park. Well we’re pretty sure that I’m the youngest ever in the UK and we suspect youngest ever in the world – and I’m going to claim it until someone else comes forward! Whilst I don’t want to labour the point too much, it is an important part of why I’m here writing this today.

For most of my (relatively short) life I have been campaigning for one cause or another. I grew up in a politically aware household where current affairs and issues were discussed on a daily basis, and quite often I would go along with my Mum to talks, marches, to help hand out leaflets, etc. When I was 12 I took part in the John Muir Trust’s Journey for the Wild by canoeing down the Tay. This special experience showed me what a truly beautiful place I lived in and my passion for protecting the environment around me grew from there.

I set-up and ran my school’s Eco-schools Committee, and we worked with partner organisations in the community to take young people out into the hills helping to do conservation work. I’m pleased that this work continues today, run in conjunction with the National Park. So campaigning on environmental matters has long been a part of my life.

As I grew older I got involved in local campaigns to save our town centre from an inappropriate development, and I ran for Chair of the Student Representative Council of Perth College UHI, where I also served as a member of the College Board of Management. I spent several years advocating for students in the further and higher education sectors, including a year as National Union of Students Scotland Priority Campaigns Convener.

Last year I was elected to serve as a Councillor for the Highland Ward of Perth & Kinross Council, the first Independent to be elected to represent any part of the ward in over 20 years. As a Councillor I spend my time advocating to protect rural schools and healthcare services, for more affordable housing, for better infrastructure to support our strong tourism economy and for stronger communities through a sustainable local economy. I serve on a number of Boards in addition to my Council committees, such as the Perth & Kinross Integration Joint Board (Health & Social Care) and several local charities including as a Director of Pitlochry Highland Games since I was 18.

As Convener of the National Park I will be aspiring to bring together my passion for both protecting the environment and sustainable communities, so that we have a National Park where people and nature truly thrive together. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during my time as Convener.