EAST Lothian could become home to Scotland’s third national park.

Discussions are under way for the Lammermuir Hills to follow in the footsteps of the Cairngorms, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, which were established as national parks two decades ago.

A commitment has already been made to designate at least one new national park in Scotland by 2026.

Ten areas have registered an ‘early expression of interest’ and it is hoped that the designation will bring positive benefits for both the environment and the economy.

Councillor Colin McGinn, East Lothian Council cabinet member for community wellbeing, felt it was an idea worth exploring, particularly given the county being the birthplace of John Muir, who would go on to help found the world’s first national park.

He said: “National parks are designated protected landscapes that offer opportunities for both leisure activities and nature conservation, and can also promote sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities.

“It would be particularly fitting if the new national park in Scotland included part of the landscape that fired the enthusiasm and helped fuel the inspiration of John Muir, who, after years of campaigning, helped establish Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA – the world’s first official national park.”

Among the areas where interest has been expressed in becoming a national park are Galloway, Scottish Borders, Tay Forest, Lochaber, Eilean a’ Cheo (Skye and Raasay), Affric to Alladale, Glen Affric, Largo Bay and Loch Awe.

Communities and organisations will drive the bid for their area to become a national park and all areas across Scotland are eligible to submit proposals.

To meet the criteria, groups must be able to demonstrate, among other factors:

  • Outstanding national importance due to natural or culture heritage;
  • A distinctive character and coherent identity;
  •  How national park status would meet the specific needs of the area;
  • Evidence of local support for the proposal.

The deadline for submissions is the end of February next year, when the suggestions will be appraised and investigation carried out.

Chris Bruce, chairman of East Lammermuir Community Council, which includes villages such as Spott, Stenton and Innerwick, said of the Lammermuirs: “I think it is underrated and a little known place of much beauty but, obviously, some people would say it is a bit late given the number of windfarms that are already up there and more permitted.”