A historian and economist by training, John worked in several Government departments and public bodies across the UK, including spells in the Countryside Commission and as Head of the Planning Policy Division in the Scottish Office, before joining Scottish Natural Heritage as a Director on its establishment in 1992. There he was involved with most of the major environmental policy and outdoor recreation issues of the day, with a particular focus on land use, development planning, landscape and access. For over ten years he also oversaw the organisation’s work in the west of Scotland, including that leading to the establishment of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
He served for several years as chair of the UK-wide Countryside Recreation Network and as a council member of the Europarc Federation, the Europe-wide network of national and nature parks. Since retiring in 2011 he has remained active in the environmental and rural development fields and currently chairs both SCNP and APRS (The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland), as well as being a trustee of the Field Studies Council and of a number of local environmental bodies in his home territory of Galloway. He and his wife also run a small farm, with a herd of pedigree black Galloway cattle.