Below you will find a summary of what the Partnership delivered during 2015. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget to stop and take note of what we have done. 2015 was a productive year and it looks like 2016 will be the same.
RURAL PARLIAMENT EVENTS
Over the last few years SUP has been working closely with the rural Parliament, facilitating workshops to find out more about the challenges that we all face living and working in Southern Scotland. The results of these workshops have been fed into the national rural parliament session that takes place once every two years.
At the moment the Scottish Rural Parliament’s Manifesto 2016 is blank and it’s up to you to help fill it up.
This year Scottish Rural Action is launching possibly the biggest ever conversation held in Scotland about the issues that matter most to rural communities and SUP are helping to facilitate them in Southern Scotland.
The Rural Parliament’s Manifesto will be a statement of our collective ambitions and the actions that are needed to ensure these ambitions are realised for our rural communities. Events are taking place all over Scotland and you can get involved by attending an event, holding your own event or just by responding online.
Confirmed events in the south of Scotland are taking place in March as follows:
Eyemouth on 21st
Clovenfords on 22nd
Gatehouse of Fleet on 23rd
Moffat on 24th
New Cumnock on 29th
Lamancha on 30th
All events will start at 6.30pm with an update from us on our activities since the 2014 event, a whistle-stop tour of how rural policy has changed and the chance to have a really good natter about the issues which you want to talk about.
WILD SPRING AND BORDERS NATURE FESTIVAL
There is an excellent range of events on offer for the Wild Spring Festival which kicks off on the 25th March. There will be a reduced Borders Nature Festival this year as a result of cuts in Council budgets and the delay in LEADER funding. We still hope to see the Wild Seasons project re-invigorated later this year and we are pleased that the idea of a Wild Film festival has been supported through an offer of grant from the D&G Events Fund.
GALLOWAY AND SOUTHERN AYRSHIRE BIOSPHERE
Recent highlights include the publication of a management plan for priority species and habitats in the biosphere which we are now starting to use to engage with landowners. We have also seen developed a highly successful Biosphere charter program that encourages businesses, communities and individuals to support the biosphere and offers an opportunity to promote their association with biosphere aspirations. There is a revamped website, interpretation and a new initiative that is using the “Sense of Place” process to help communities develop pride in their biosphere. Members of the team visited the Dyfi Biosphere in Wales to attend an event focused on a Citizen Science surveying “App” that we are hoping to trial locally. Staff also joined a group that visited Urdaibai Biosphere in Spain looking at potential partnership opportunities. Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, launched the new Climate Ready Biosphere vision and action plan and spoke very positively about the value of the biosphere and her support for it.
UPLAND RESTORATION AND WILD LAND
After the recent flood events experienced during the winter of 2015/16, management of the uplands to store more water and reduce peak flooding occurrences has once again been in the headlines. Emily Taylor, our Peatland Action Officer, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, has worked to identify and co-ordinate peatland restoration work in the uplands of Dumfries and Galloway. A key aspect of this work is the rewetting of upland areas that have been drained during the last 50 or so years, allowing the land to once again act as a sponge contributing to a reduction in the height and frequency of peak river levels. Funds have been allocated to 24 projects which will restore 680 hectares of peatland. Advice has been given on management of a further 2820has.
Also linked to upland management we have been meeting with stakeholders around the Talla Hart fell area interested in exploring how the new wild land designation might benefit Southern Scotland. Wild land is loosely defined as semi natural land that shows minimal signs of human influence.
It seems there may be scope for a habitat and nature based tourism / local regeneration project to be developed. We now need to follow-up with the stakeholders who were unable to attend the meeting.
We are also looking at ways of funding works that will continue to deliver the Black Grouse work we have been supporting for a number of years and will take forward the new strategy being produced by our partners.
DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES CENTRE (DGERC)
The Centre has continued to deliver its agreed actions while at the same time, we have been putting significant efforts have into plans to extend its remit into Ayrshire. A Heritage Lottery Fund application has been successful and we have been invited to apply to LEADER for the required match funding. The proposed project would involve employing a project officer for two years to work with communities and partners in Ayrshire to raise awareness of the regions natural heritage and the value in using biological data to help protect it.
ETTRICK AND BEYOND COMMUNITY BROADBAND
During the year we have been working with Community Broadband Scotland and a number of local communities to survey households in a wide area centred on Ettrick that is unlikely to be part of the British Telecom roll out of high speed broadband. The task has been to scope out the case for, and the scale of, a community broadband project. 700 responses were received. The report stage is complete and we are now seeking funds for the next stage of the project which will generate a tender document and a business case.
We are keen to share our experience and we would be interested in working with other local communities across Southern Scotland who suspect they may not be part of the national scheme.
Working with the local Community Development Company, we have proposed a pilot energy-potential mapping project for the Ettrick and Yarrow area. This would produce a supplementary layer for the Borders Land Use Strategy pilot showing renewable energy opportunities in the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys. The tendering process has been completed and funding from Local Energy Scotland has recently been confirmed. Support has also been offered from the local Community Council and the Community Development Company
The EuroRural Tourism project is a partnership of seven countries who are working together to explore different approaches to the packaging of authentic rural experiences and accommodation to visitors. The project is still in its early stages but offers an opportunity to bring together local tourism businesses and accommodation providers in the south of Scotland to work together to develop a Scottish rural culture experience that can be shared with partners from across Europe. The project has been awarded 75% funding from the EU and runs till March 2017.
SUP is providing staff time to the Resilient Communities project being led by Dundee University which started in April 2015. The project is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. To date we have assisted with community workshops in Hawick and Newcastleton.
EILDON LEADERFOOT NATIONAL SCENIC AREA
SUP has been asked by Scottish Power Energy Network (SPEN) to help put a bid together for funding that might pay for the development of an enhancement strategy and project plan for the Eildon Leaderfoot National Scenic Area (NSA). The NSA is little-known and yet the newly reopened railway allows visitors to arrive at the NSA boundary and potentially walk or cycle through it.
At the request of Element Power we have supported a number of community meetings to consider the establishment of an “environmental project” fund linked to a windfarm proposal in Dumfries and Galloway. We ran a number of workshops creating community action plans that identified key issues and opportunities that the communities hoped to focus on.
At the request of the Creetown Initiative, SUP staff have undertaken work to scope out the potential of a Nordic Walking initiative in Creetown. Local routes have been surveyed and proposals explored. Eight taster sessions were held for local people to try out the activity.
The AGM will take place on the afternoon of June 29th this year in the Gordon Arms.