Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

Islanders will pursue park status

Harris ballot
About 1,450 ballot papers were circulated to people living on the island

Residents of Harris in the Western Isles have supported plans to turn their island into Scotland's third national park.

About 1,450 ballot papers were circulated among islanders. More than 730 people voted in favour of the idea - with 311 residents saying no.

Those behind the plan said it would create jobs and attract new residents.

It is now up to the Scottish Government to decide what to do about the proposal.

Harris is the southern part of the landmass attached to Lewis and among its geographical features are the Harris Hills - the highest is An Cliseam, at almost 800m.

The isle takes its name from the old Norse meaning "high land" and has been described as the "high heart of the Hebrides".

Scotland already has two national parks - one covering the Cairngorms and the other Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

The people of Harris have sent out a very clear signal today that they want new life and prosperity for one of Scotland's most fragile island communities
Alasdair Allan
Western Isles MSP
The Cairngorms is 40% larger than the Lake District and twice the size of the west of Scotland park.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said no money was available in the current budget to designate Harris as a national park.

She added: "Community empowerment, and the principle of enabling local people to help shape their own destiny, is wholly supported by the Scottish Government.

"There are also strict conditions which need to be met before an area can be designated as a national park.

"We look forward to learning more about the Harris proposals in due course."

SNP MSP for the Western Isles, Alasdair Allan, said: "Obviously some islanders had concerns about the implications of national park status and I would be hopeful that negotiations with the government would respect and engage with all of the community regardless of how they voted.

"However, the people of Harris have sent out a very clear signal today that they want new life and prosperity for one of Scotland's most fragile island communities."



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