It has been especially busy recently with two new projects getting started and a number of others moving forward.
The Wild Film Festival now has Sid Ambrose as manager and the event is starting to take shape. Marketing work has been awarded to Mathew Shelley and the youth engagement work has started. It looks like this could be a really exciting project and we are already being encouraged to apply for funding for a follow-up event in 2018. On the more frustrating side, there is no sign of any funding for progressing Wild Seasons, although we have secured a small amount to allow us to run a couple of awareness raising trips for businesses in the Borders which will link opportunities to see wildlife with the Waverly Railway.
The Where’s Wildlife in Ayrshire project is also underway with Aisling Gribben in post and a network of volunteers starting to be identified. We have been in discussions with the Crichton Institute about how the Environmental Resource Centre might be able to support their Rural Observatory work and also how the growing interest in ecosystem service data might be an opportunity for future project work.
The Ettrick and Beyond Community Broadband project has now successfully completed the convoluted process required to check it is eligible for state aid and the next stage is to go to procurement. However, the Government support mechanisms for supporting rural superfast broadband to all are going through yet further changes, and it now seems the project will concentrate on securing funding to enable it take on a project manager before progressing further. By March, we hope things will be clearer!
The Biosphere project hosted a very successful meeting of staff from all the current and developing UNESCO Biospheres in the UK and Eire in October. Lots of useful networking and idea-sharing took place, and it was agreed that these meetings should take place more often. Funding for the next phase of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere project has been secured and SUP will continue to play a major role in supporting the project over the next few years.
The Scottish Government recently consulted on the future of forestry in Scotland, inviting responses to their plans for the devolution of forestry and their proposals for a dedicated Forestry Division within the Government and the creation of a new land management agency called “Forestry and Land Scotland”. Last week the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership submitted their response that appeals for a more balanced approach to land management which considers the wider impact of forestry on the environment, communities and other rural businesses. As expressed by Joan Mitchell, the chair of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Partnership Board, “an appropriate balance in land use is important at local as well as national level and we are anxious to preserve the local discretion which allows the Biosphere to work as an effective partnership of different interests”.
The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership, while recognising the important economic contribution of forestry to this area, have concerns that creating a new Forestry Division within Government could lead to the centralization of decision making with the consequent loss of a more regional approach to management and regulation. We feel that the Government must consider the wider impacts of forestry on local communities, biodiversity, water and carbon sequestration and storage and recognise the importance of the National Forest Estate for recreation and tourism. With the growing emphasis on planting targets and commercial forestry within the Scottish Government, the Biosphere Partnership fears that the wider implications of new commercial planting schemes and the management of the National Forest Estate will lead to inappropriate planting with limited wider benefits to visitors and those who live and work in the area.
The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere’s full response can be found here:
SCOTTISH LAND COMMISSION
The Scottish Government recently announced the appointment of the Land Commissioners and Tenant Farming Commissioners.
The appointments, which are subject to Parliamentary approval, are as follows:
- Land Commissioners – Andrew Thin, Professor David Adams, Megan MacInnes, Lorne MacLeod, Dr Sally Reynolds
- Tenant Farming Commissioner Dr Bob McIntosh
Scottish Ministers have selected Andrew Thin to chair the Commission, which will be located in Inverness and will be operational from April 2017.
Further details, including biogs, can be found at http://news.gov.scot/news/appointments-to-scottish-land-commission
SUP has been working with the Langholm Initiative on the proposed South Scotland Golden Eagle reinforcement project. The three consultation events attracted plenty of interest and the results of these plus a large number of written responses have been written up and will be used to support the Heritage Lottery Application.
There is growing evidence that the Pine Marten is becoming re-established in the Southern Uplands.
Recent research at the University of Aberdeen has identified pine martens as a potential agent for the biological control of grey squirrels. With UK pine marten populations in recovery, the potential benefits for grey squirrel control, red squirrel conservation and commercial forest management are considerable. Professor Xavier Lambin and Dr Emma Sheehy of the University of Aberdeen are developing a major interdisciplinary project that seeks to:
- shed light on the ecology of interactions between pine martens and squirrels,
- make predictions about the ecological and economic implications of pine marten recovery, and
- work with stakeholders to assess the feasibility of the biological control concept, including potential conflicts and risks.
The project was discussed at a recent Scottish Land and Estates meeting in the Borders where there was some interest in the opportunity to work with the University of Aberdeen on a potentially game-changing approach to nature conservation and forest management. We look forward to hearing whether the project gets approval.
ENTERPRISE AND SKILLS REVIEW
The Scottish Government recently published its report on phase 1 of the Enterprise & Skills Review. SUP submitted comments on the consultation and we are very pleased to note that amongst the recommendations, the Government will “create a new vehicle to meet the enterprise and skills needs of the South of Scotland”. Obviously we will have to wait to see the details of this in due course, but it does seem that the call for an enterprise agency that can deliver for the needs of Southern Scotland has been heard. The Phase one report is at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00508447.pdf
NEW LAMMERMUIR PATHS BOOKLET
The Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society have launched a new guide to walking in the Lammermuirs published by Scotways. The Lammermuirs project has also aimed to improve the signposting of routes, so ScotWays volunteers have been auditing, repairing and replacing existing signs and noting potential locations for new signage. Although the resultant signage repair and negotiation regarding new signs is underway, signposting is an ongoing part of ScotWays work, so updates and suggestions will continue to be very welcome.
The leaflet was funded by ScotWays, East Lothian Council, Scottish Borders Council and Gifford Community Council. The project was also supported by the Lammermuirs Moorland Group and Lammermuir Community Council.
See www.scotways.com for further information.