LIKE many others granted the privilege of writing columns and interviewing people for a living, you like to think that your views might resonate with at least some people some of the time. 

My favourites, though, are those prepared to advance opinions that go against the grain of what seems popular at the time, or at least to ask questions of the prevailing spirit of the age. 

And always treat with suspicion those who go for the low-hanging fruit, especially those middle-aged artisan radicals who, having accessed a degree of comfort in their upholstered lives, decide that it’s safe to get active. 

It’s why you see so many in this bracket checking which way the wind is blowing because that’s what gets you invites to G12 soirees and approval from the civic elites.

Sadly, some of them, along with far too many professional politicians, seem to forget that their principle function is to scrutinise those whom the people elected to govern, and to do so on behalf of their readers. 

During the now-discredited Nicola Sturgeon era too many journalists who ought to have known better effectively became her glove puppets. 

Occasionally, however, you see a story which forces you to question if you’ve missed the boat on one of the big questions, or at least wonder if decrepitude and codgerdom have begun to blur your antennae. 

This happened last week when The Herald, along with other news outlets, reported the findings of a poll claiming that two-thirds of Scots wanted a new national park. Research conducted by the respected polling firm Survation found that 33% of those questioned strongly supported a new national park and 30% quite liked the idea. 

A chap called Joe Richards, who is Scotland project manager at the Blue Marine Foundation conservation charity, said: “The idea of a coastal and marine national park for Scotland has been a dream of many for decades.”

Upon reading that, I began to fret more than just a little. Had I been missing something quite profound in the heartbeat of Scotland all these years? Have I been failing to pick up the ley lines of public discourse among my fellows? 

For the last few decades, I’ve travelled to almost every part of Scotland and not once have I heard anyone ever utter the phrase: “My dream is for Scotland to have another national park. This would make me very happy indeed.”

More jobs, yes. Cleaner spaces, certainly. Better public services and transport infrastructure, absolutely. But of national parks not even the merest utterance. I feel I must now reflect on this and rethink my existence. 

The Herald:

Greens’ concession
THE Scottish Government’s plan to designate another national park is one of those concessions it made to The Scottish Greens in the Bute House Agreement. 

Let’s be frank here, however. 

This woolly concordat resembled nothing so much as a deal that parents make with their children whereby they get little treats in return for good behaviour. 
Such as being allowed to stay up a bit later on Friday nights, or extra time on their electronic devices, or more pocket money. 

This is not to say that conferring national park status on some of Scotland’s grand, wild spaces isn’t something to be desired.

It can increase the powers of some local authorities to direct funds and services towards better management of local facilities and to improve better economic and environmental outcomes. 

It’s just that in many of the communities best suited for such an enhanced status, what is mainly required is: more affordable housing; improved transport links; long-promised health provision; and essential repairs to schools. 

Flamingo farce
THE most reliable monitor of how Scotland’s other two national parks – Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and the Cairngorms – have been managed is the excellent parkswatchscotland website managed by my old friend, the writer and rural campaigner Nick Kempe.  

For much of the last decade, Kempe has chronicled the wretched conduct of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority and Scottish Enterprise over plans by an English theme-park designer to build a sprawling holiday complex called Flamingo Land on the banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch. 

It’s a story of bad faith – concealed agreements and absolute contempt for the views of local residents. 

Meanwhile, in the Cairngorms, the national park authority, according to the wildlife campaigner Raptor Persecution UK stands accused of wholesale failure to protect birds of prey. 

The most disturbing recent incident was the deliberate poisoning of a golden eagle near the Invercauld Estate. Among questions that have been expressed – and not adequately answered – concern connections of some members of the park authority with the shooting estate. 

And why, of more than 80 raptor persecution crimes in the Cairngorms National Park since 2003, only one has resulted in prosecution. 

Gone to the dogs
WHEN discussing the real priorities of the Scottish people, I’m reminded of the first Members’ Bill raised in the Scottish Parliament in the devolved era. 

This was the Bill introduced by then-sports minister Mike Watson to ban hunting with dogs. 

Watson’s Cathcart constituency included Castlemilk where the sight of posh, indolent, red-coated wasters hunting foxes was not an everyday occurrence. 

The blameless denizens of the jaggy south Glasgow suburb probably like the idea of another national park too. It’s just that there are probably more pressing concerns closer to their hearts.