You will doubtless be all too familiar with the harsh financial climate facing all not-for-profit organisations like SUP just now. Not only have the public purse-strings tightened sharply but many charitable donors have seen their income fall steeply just as more and more organisations are seeking their support. With the Olympics behind us the prospects on the Lottery front are a little more benign, and a body with SUP’s objectives is well-placed to take advantage of them, but only if the necessary match-funding can be found.
Over the past eighteen months the SUP Board has taken the conscious decision to draw upon the reserves that SUP accumulated in easier times to maintain its level of activity, and in particular the number of core staff needed to deliver on several fronts: to manage the range of projects for which it was responsible, sustain the strategic overview that it seeks to provide (in areas such as land use policy, renewable energy opportunities and broadband communications), and develop proposals for new projects to advance its aim of sustainable rural development across the south of Scotland. Much has been achieved and, even more hearteningly, many exciting new opportunities have been identified. These include Scotland’s newly designated Biosphere Reserve, the Wild Seasons project, the Valleys Revitalisation project and the North Solway Coastal Trail (see news updates below).
Several of these hold out a realistic prospect of attracting significant amounts of funding, from a variety of sources – both familiar and novel. However, to date we have succeeded in securing only modest sums and on short timescales and indeed the growing requirement for reporting and grant claiming has required us to adjust staff priorities, with more time having to be allocated to grant administration. We have recently developed plans to seek more corporate sponsorship. The Board is however reluctant to mount a major push on this front until it is able to be rather clearer about the likely shape of its programme over the next two to three years, since potential sponsors are likely to want to know exactly what they would be backing.
After carefully reviewing SUP’s activities and the context in which it operates, the Board remains convinced that there is a worthwhile role for the organisation. Indeed it believes that for the foreseeable future the sort of animation and facilitation that it can provide will be needed more than ever. In these circumstances we feel that we must even more than before look to our “members” to help us to ensure that SUP keeps pressing ahead.
SUP is not about to go bankrupt but if it is to fulfil its potential we need a short-term boost to our income and in the longer term to reduce our dependence on increasingly unpredictable public funding. In recent years we have moved away from asking supporters for donations or membership subscriptions. However in the current circumstances we would like to ask you to consider making a contribution. Membership rates remain as they have been for some time. For individuals, annual subscription is £10, for local community groups it is £40 and for businesses and regional organisations it is £100. You could also just make a donation and, if you use the form we can claim gift aid on your contribution. We are separately looking to secure a number of Patrons for the Partnership who agree to pay at least £500 a year.
I hope you will find the following update of interest. There is much to feel positive about and with your support we are confident that the SUP can continue to help to keep people living and working in the Southern Uplands of Scotland.
John Thomson Partnership Convenor
John has been working with the SUP since 2009. Initially joining us as the Nith Estuary Nature-Based Tourism Project Officer and then as SUP project Officer. John has played a major role in developing the Wild Seasons project and has also taken the lead in developing the ground work for the proposed North Solway Coastal Trail project. John has now decided to move on and we thank him for his efforts over the last three years and wish him well in his building enterprise.
Since the last newsletter we have been very busy with funding applications. We have made four applications to LEADER, two to the lottery, two to charitable trusts and two to SNH. To date seven of these have been successful and three are pending. Unfortunately we have had to turn-down two of the successful applications due to lack of match funding.
As a result of the new funds, we have recruited Iain Wilson to work part-time on the Wild Seasons project, promoting nature-based tourism in Dumfries & Galloway. You may remember Iain from his time managing the excellent Making Tracks project established after the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak. Iain is also involved in the Mote Brae project in Dumfries and we are delighted he will now be working with us. Another chunk of Wild Seasons development work will be delivered through a contract currently out to tender (see www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk). We have also re-recruited Julie Nock to deliver the Ettrick and Yarrow Development project which will see the outputs of the past two years work taken to the next stage in development with feasibility studies being commissioned into seven potential community projects in the valleys.
The Biosphere project is still waiting to hear if funding is available to maintain the impressive momentum the project has developed. Lenka has produced a report on her work and this sets out how future efforts can best be targeted. The parallel ecosystem services contract has collated a huge amount of data and will now use this to model the services delivered by the Biosphere area to local people and businesses (see below) . Together this should allow the Biosphere project to support the most appropriate development, ensuring that the environment is fully cared-for. The current BOB project ends with a 4 day event running from the 23rd to the 26th March. This will see visitors from other Biosphere Reserves experiencing what we have to offer as well as presentations on the projects’ achievements to date. Recent outputs have included further developments at the observatory at Craigengillan (www.craigengillan.com), a series of case studies on Biosphere Business and a report on Sustainable Transport and Core Paths (www.gallowayandsouthernayrshirebiosphere.org.uk) and the promotion of the Wild Spring festival which this year includes the Biosphere (www.wildseasons.co.uk). Ed and Ruth are finalising the production of an Adventure Activities Provider leaflet in partnership with the Pan Ayrshire Tourism Team which should be ready by the end of the month. Ruth recently met with Duke of Edinburgh’s Award participants from Ayrshire, walking in the hills and talking about the Biosphere, teaching navigations skills and inspiring them with ideas for their projects.
Doing Business in the Biosphere!
On a cold, wet night in New Galloway recently, 40 doughty souls gathered at the CatStrand to hear inspirational stories from businesses operating in the Biosphere who understand the importance of putting sustainable business practice at the heart of their activities. We heard from Mark Gibson, owner of the Craigengillan Estate how opening up the estate and involving the local community in its regeneration had benefitted nearby Dalmellington as well as the estate itself. Careful restoration work and land management practice, aimed at preserving and enhancing the landscape, have turned a moribund state into a sustainable business over a 10 year period. Next we heard from Janet Butterworh of the Whithorn Trust, how education and research is at the heart of the way that they operate, whilst also ensuring that their trading arm incorporates resource efficiency and other good environmental practices into all its activities; behaviour that has resulted in the Green Tourism award. Chris Savage then informed us of the of the unbroken 600 year legacy of the Cassillis & Culzean Estate, responsibility for the continuance of which he now holds as estate manager. As a consequence, sustainable long-term planning is essential whilst ensuring that the various facets of the business continue on an even keel. Activities include planting of 50 miles of hedgerows, creating ponds and using low impact tillage systems, as well as addressing issues of fuel poverty by installing solar pv and wind turbines on tenant properties across the estate. Chris also sees community engagement, education and knowledge transfer as key components to a successful business. Finally we heard from Helen Fenby of Cream o’ Galloway and how the owners and management team at this organic farm, ice cream business and visitor centre are passionate about the environment. This passion translates into additional business, bringing in customers attracted by the Fair Trade products, organic status and the nature walks and low-impact outdoor adventure areas. Interspersed with these inspiring talks, we heard from a number of business support agencies about the support available to help businesses become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint: Joe Fergusson from Energy Agency told us about the Renewable Heat Incentive and how it can make financial sense for businesses to install Biomass heating systems; Robbie Weir programme manager for Zero Waste Scotland told us of impending resource shortages and the need to minimise inputs, whilst pointing out useful tools and online support that is available; Grainne Kennedy informed us about the work being undertaken by the Crichton Carbon centre and the support that they can provide to SMEs to help them reduce their carbon usage.
The evening was deemed a great success by the delegates who all received a pack of case studies of the companies presenting on the night plus one from Nestle plant at Girvan, and another from Hope Homes at Cumnock, neither of whom, unfortunately, were available to present on the night. If you would like to download copies of the case studies then please go to: http://www.gallowayandsouthernayrshirebiosphere.org.uk/?page_id=959
Working the Tweed
The SUP is currently a partner in a Borders project “Working the Tweed” which will mark the Year of Natural Scotland through bringing together the scientists who manage the Tweed and artists who will interpret their work. News on this will follow as the project takes shape.
SUP has also been working with a group who are keen to see the development of a coastal trail along the Solway. You may remember that last year we commissioned some work to see how much of the route already existed. The next phase will seek to work with key coastal communities to try and plug some of the gaps while at the same time supporting rural diversification.
Back in the Borders, SUP has been identified as a key player in project that seeks to better understand and protect cultural landscapes. The Sircle project is led by the University of Glasgow and is currently seeking European funding. If successful, it is likely to focus on the Cheviot Hills.
Broad-band Events. Thanks to support from the Lottery Fund we are holding a further two free events on ways that rural communities and businesses can link themselves to the superfast broadband network. There will be an event in Newton Stewart on the 1st May and one in Kelso on the 8th May. Details will be posted on our website. To book a place at either event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update from Dumfries & Galloway Environmental Resources Centre (DGERC)
The local records centre for Dumfries & Galloway continues to operate and provide services to partners and clients requiring access to wildlife and habitat information. DGERC are always grateful to receive records of where different species are found, so please do report any interesting sightings to the Centre.
This summer, in partnership with other local organisations, DGERC are co-organising two ‘BioBlitz’ events. These fun events bring together wildlife experts and the public to help find and identify as many different species as possible at a site in one day – a bit like a wildlife version of ‘Time Team’.
To celebrate World Oceans Day on Saturday 8 June, Solway Firth Partnership, Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and DGERC are organising a BioBlitz at Brighouse Bay near Kirkcudbright. The site is part of the Borgue Coast SSSI and has a diverse range of habitats, including sandy and rocky shore, coastal grassland and broadleaf woodland. The bay is the only Scottish site for the beautiful Perennial Flax, which should be in flower at the time of the event.
The second BioBlitz, co-organised by SWT and DGERC, will take place at Barstobrick Visitor Centre near Ringford on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th July. Set amongst farmland, the site has a network of excellent accessible ponds surrounded by flower-rich marshy grassland, woodland and a hill monument with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The programme is still in the early stages of preparation, but will include moth trapping, bat walks, small mammal trapping, a dragonfly watch, bee and butterfly walks and lots more too.
More details will appear in due course on the DGERC website (www.dgerc.org.uk). Everyone is welcome, from beginner to experienced wildlife watcher, so make a date in your diary and help us to discover more about our local wildlife.
Finally, black grouse surveys are about to start again in the hills of the western Borders. The results are likely to reflect both improving habitat and the recent poor breeding seasons caused by wet springs. We will keep you posted.
Thanks to some hard lobbying by a number of people, approval has been given for Asulam to be used to treat bracken during 2013. The latest information is available at the bracken control website www.brackencontrol.co.uk. We have been asked to get two messages out to landowners / managers:
- Please note that asulam will be available for bracken control, and
- If you are proposing to take action this year, you should contact your aerial contractors without delay because they will need to put in orders for the supply of asulam and will need to know what the likely take up is going to be.
Andrew Wards of the Creetown Initiative writes “the Barholm Arms which closed down just over a year ago has been awarded £46,000 project development funding.
The idea is to run a craft makers/producers cooperative from the old bar area. This will be a custom designed shop, high quality, based on the one we saw in Cervenne. It will operate from Easter for 6 months. The shop will then convert to a charity shop for the remainder of the year, run by a cooperative of community groups.
The upper floors will become a bunk house, with up to 30 bed spaces. This will operate all year round. We may also put in a commercial laundry because we will have our own laundry to do, and we have been asked by a number of people if it might be open to the public, apparently people still use laundries?
The ground floor buildings to the rear will become work spaces for start-up or expanding small businesses.
We now need to develop contacts with people who might be interested, and wondered if you have details of anyone who you think it would be relevant to. I also want to promote the project around Dumfries and Galloway because I think it is a model which could be replicated elsewhere, and I want to engage other communities”. Let us know if you want to know more.
Wildlife Tourism Workshops: Helping Your Guests Go Wild about Wildlife!
Did you know that:
Wildlife watching is worth £276m per year to Scotland?
Wildlife watching is not just for the experts. Over 56% of visitors to Scotland spend time watching wildlife as part of their stay?
This one day workshop, run by Scottish Enterprise in partnership with VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage and delivered by Wild Scotland, the Scottish wildlife and adventure tourism association, will involve a workshop and discussion in the morning, followed by a visit to a local wildlife site in the afternoon.
The workshops are offered as part of 2013 Year of Natural Scotland and are supported by Scottish Enterprise, VisitScotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.
When – 26 March – Argyll and Islands Scottish Association of Marine Science, Dunstaffnage
For more details and to book, please click here
Time – 9.30am – 4pm
Cost – £20 (payable on the day in cash – receipts will be available