Unlike the national parks of many other countries outside the United Kingdom, neither of the Scottish parks are wilderness areas owned by the government. The majority of the land is in private ownership and has been worked by humans for thousands of years. Like many areas of the Scottish Highlands, historical deforestation, overgrazing by sheep and deer, and extensive 20th century afforestation with introduced tree species (particularly conifers) have resulted in landscapes which are semi-natural. Like their English and Welsh counterparts, then, the parks in Scotland are effectively "managed landscapes", and are classified as IUCN Category V Protected Landscapes because of this.
The general purpose of the national park authority, as defined in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000, is to ensure that these aims are "collectively achieved ...in a coordinated way". Although the four aims have equal status, in accordance with the Sandford Principle, the first aim (conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage) is to be given greater weight when it appears to the park authority that there is irreconcilable conflict with the other aims.