Galloway national park campaign gathers pace
Hundreds of people have signed up for the first conference of a campaign to designate Galloway a national park.
Organisers say they hope to gather sufficient community support to persuade the Scottish government to consult on the proposal.
Scotland currently has two national parks - in the Cairngorms and at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
The Galloway National Park Association (GNPA) said securing the status could help with wider regeneration.
The conference - to be held next week - has received cross-party political praise.
Conservative Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson said: "This will be a fantastic opportunity to hear more about the progress the association has made in their campaign to make Galloway Scotland's third national park.
"I believe that this conference can be a springboard for turning aspirations into reality.
"National park status has the potential to transform the economy of rural Galloway."
South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth also welcomed the event.
"The national park brand is recognised across the world, and that alone could provide a real boost to the Galloway economy, bringing more visitors to our area," he said.
"The beauty of the work done by the GNPA is that we don't need to simply follow the model of other national parks.
"We can learn from the experience of other areas and develop a plan that meets the unique needs of Galloway and the local community."
Fellow south of Scotland MSP, the SNP's Emma Harper, also paid tribute to the work of the people behind the plans.
"As an MSP, one of my priorities is to promote the rural economy of the south west of Scotland, its businesses, and all who live here in beautiful Galloway," she said.
"I absolutely approach the idea of a Galloway national park with an open mind.
"I would welcome a Galloway national park if there is clear evidence to suggest that it would benefit the area, and the people in the south west."
GNPA President Dame Barbara Kelly said the views of the politicians were "vindication" of their efforts.
"We are fortunate to have MSPs so rooted in the local community," she said.
"I am grateful to them for taking on board the view of a great many of their constituents who have shared with us a firm belief that national park status could turn around Galloway's fortunes for the better."
The conference takes place near Gatehouse of Fleet on Monday.