SCOTLAND'S farming union is the latest organisation to voice opposition to proposals for the extension to the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

Local MSP Christine Grahame introduced a Bill to move the park's southern boundary into parts of Peeblesshire and South Lanarkshire.

The Private Members' Bill seeks to bring the whole of the Pentland Hills range, which covers countryside around West Linton and Carlops, into the regional park.

And a parliamentary committee has been set up to consider views before the end of September.

The Peeblesshire News revealed last month that Scottish Borders Council had opposed the move due to staffing and financial implications.

And now NFU Scotland has also raised its own concerns over the proposals.

Regional Manager for Lothian and Borders Kerry Barr said: “With Regional Park status comes significant additional responsibilities which have not been accounted for within this Bill.

"Aside from the obvious funding implications, there will be clear business implications for farmers and land managers who will have to deal with increased tourist numbers without any kind of support or resource from the Park’s governing bodies.

"These unofficial duties could range from routine maintenance of paths and fencing to dealing with instances of sheep worrying, dog fouling, and cattle disturbances – which, as we know, could have significant ramifications for public safety.

“Farmers across Scotland currently find themselves in a particularly dire situation as market prices continue to fall, and the reformed CAP support system beds in. NFUS urges MSPs to throw out this untimely proposal, in favour of conducting a wide-ranging feasibility study on the Park’s future.”

Over recent years, funding and resources for the existing Pentland Hills Regional Park have been under increasing strain as local authority budgets have been tightened and services cut.

If passed, the Bill could lead to the incorporation of approximately 20 further farm businesses unequipped to take on the unofficial stewardship role bestowed upon them to finance essential maintenance, including repairs to paths and fencing.

Scottish Land and Estates also raised concerns ahead of this week's submissions deadline.

Anne Gray, Scottish Land and Estates Policy Officer commented: “Many of our members, both within the existing regional park and in the area of the proposed extension, are concerned about the Bill.

"A major concern is that it raises public expectations about an extended park and the facilities that will be available in the extension area.

"There is no provision for funding and resources at this stage and therefore all that will change is a line on a map.

“Scottish access rights already give the public access to the whole Pentland Hills range, including the area of the proposed extension. To enhance the recreational experience and help farmers and other landowners manage additional numbers requires, at a minimum, a good ranger service and improvements in paths and signage.

"Ideally a visitors’ centre and better parking provision would also be accounted for. A feasibility study into this proposal must be done before it is allowed to proceed any further.”