About Us

About us

Our Vision

“The Southern Uplands is a place where communities make environmentally sustainable use of their natural and cultural resources to build an economically secure and socially resilient future for all”.

Established in 1999, the Southern Upland Partnership is perfectly placed to support the communities of southern Scotland with a team that brings together a wealth of knowledge, research skills, project delivery and stakeholder engagement capabilities.

We are a not-for-profit organisation (SC029475) with an environmental, rural regeneration and community focus operating out of Lindean in the Scottish Borders and Kirkgunzeon in Dumfries & Galloway.

Our ‘big picture’ view is a world where there is understanding and appreciation that to be truly sustainable, we have to give equal consideration to social, economic and environmental needs at a time of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change.

Meet the team

Our Team

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Cara Gillespie


Cara Gillespie is an experienced non-profit manager and leader and a graduate of Edinburgh University and the Open University. Cara is passionate about sustainable development and has extensive strategic experience in delivery, including previously as Group Co-ordinator (Chief of Staff) for the Scottish Green MSPs 2003-2007 and as Foundation Scotland’s Community Engagement Manager for South Scotland 2013-2019, where she developed and delivered a portfolio of community benefit funds. She has run her own consultancy, specialising in third sector governance, strategy, business planning and stakeholder engagement, and currently chairs the Scottish Land Fund Committee. Cara has lived in rural Dumfries and Galloway since 2009, and enjoys engaging with the great people and beautiful landscapes of the Southern Uplands every day. Contact: cara@sup.org.uk 07877 086474

Sheila photo

Sheila Adams

Finance / Operations Manager

Sheila brings to the team her robust experience in financial management and a wealth of knowledge in handling grant claims and funding requirements. Along with the finances of SUP and SUP’s trading arm, SUP Services Ltd, Sheila is also Company Secretary and deals with all HR requirements. Contact: sheila@sup.org.uk 07741 076997

yvonne kennedy

Yvonne Kennedy

Finance / Admin Assistant

Yvonne works on a part-time basis assisting our Finance & Operations Manager. She has previously worked in a range of businesses including the Ministry of Defence, funeral industry and local businesses and charities. When she isn’t tending her veggie garden, she has a passion for the outdoors and spends most of her free time canoeing and hiking in the local hills with her husband and Aussie cattle dog. Contact: yvonne@sup.org.uk 07733 121836


Tiki Muir

River Tweed Cultural Curator, Destination Tweed Connecting Threads project

Tiki was previously Creative Community Hubs Project Lead at Whale Arts, a community-led arts charity and social enterprise in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. Tiki’s professional areas of focus include participatory working methods, organising with collectives, and community-embedded cultural projects. Her interests also include mountain biking and outdoor swimming. Contact: tiki@sup.org.uk 07435 871518

Emily Cropton

River Culture Animateur (Upper Tweed), Destination Tweed Connecting Threads Project

Contact: emily@sup.org.uk 07855 022270

Joanna Helfer

Joanna Helfer

River Culture Animateur (Lower Tweed), Destination Tweed Connecting Threads Project

Joanna is a visual artist and community organiser with a background in youthwork and artist led spaces. She cares about co-creating projects alongside people and learning together, with a particular interest in place, histories of landscapes, walking and stories. Joanna has been part of the Connecting Threads team since early 2023. Contact: joanna@sup.org.uk 07887 861767

Kerry Jones

River Culture Animateur

Contact: kerry@sup.org.uk 07385 816531

Tom Jeffreys

River Messenger/Comms

Contact: tom@sup.org.uk 07919 613881


Isla Wightman

Project Coordinator / Developer - Scottish Borders Climate Action Network (SBCAN)

Working as the project co-ordinator of Scottish Borders Climate Action Network. Isla has worked in the sports and events industry and sustainable procurement prior to this role. Spends her spare time playing hockey, out running or helping out on a mixed organic farm! Contact: isla@sup.org.uk 07984 134999

caitlin hume

Caitlin Hume

Network Development / Comms - Scottish Borders Climate Action Network (SBCAN)

Working with the SBCAN Team as a Network Development and Communications Officer. Previously she has worked in Events, Renewable properties and Farm dogs body! Spends her time herding children and animals! Contact: caitlin@sup.org.uk 07867 434885

Ayliffe Rose-min

Ayliffe Rose

Network Development / Comms - Scottish Borders Climate Action Network (SBCAN)

With over 11 years working in the third sector in the Scottish Borders, Ayliffe is a skilled Community Development specialist with particular expertise in the Youth Sector. A love for nature, Ayliffe, enjoys running and climbing local hills, as well as gardening. Ayliffe is a musician, playing flute in two local music groups. Contact: ayliffe@sup.org.uk 07580 512714

Mark Pollitt

Mark Pollitt

Centre Manager - South West Scotland Environmental Information Centre (SWSEIC)

Mark was appointed as the Centre Manager of DGERC when it was established in 2004 and has overseen the operation of the Centre ever since. He graduated from the University of Hertfordshire and worked for 11 years as the National Organiser of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) Core Counts at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge. As well as an interest in birds, Mark is a keen butterfly and dragonfly enthusiast and through the work of the Centre has a broad knowledge of wildlife in Dumfries & Galloway. Contact: mpollitt@swseic.org.uk 01387 760274

Malcolm Haddow

Malcolm Haddow

Support Officer - South West Scotland Environmental Information Centre (SWSEIC)

Malcolm joined the team as a SWSEIC Support Officer in July 2023. He spent a year as a Project Support Officer with the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, delivering wildlife recording workshops and learning for sustainability in schools. He achieved a first-class honours in BSc Wildlife and Conservation Management from SRUC and is a keen wildlife enthusiast and recorder with particular interest in insects and vascular plants. Contact: mhaddow@swseic.org.uk 01387 760274

Katrina Dick

Katrina Dick

South West Scotland Coastal Way Project Officer

Having worked in various conservation settings previously after a change in career from working with children and young people, Katrina is excited to embark on the journey of creating a long-distance route between Gretna and Stranraer. With her passion for walking, access development and community engagement this role is straight up her street. In her spare time, she can be found up a hill or on a beach with her trusted sidekick Splash the lab. Contact: katrina@sup.org.uk 07796 129565

Jamie Dent

Jamie Dent

East Dumfriesshire Community Officer

I work with two windfarm community benefit funds in Eastern Annandale and Eskdale, Ewe Hill 16 and Solwaybank, by working directly with community groups to develop projects and source funding to bring about positive change to region. I assist applications to the local windfarm funds and to other external funders. Any voluntary or not for profit organisations operating in the Ewe Hill 16 area of benefit can contact me for assistance. Contact: jamie@decbg.org.uk 07391 618359

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Katy Ewing

Project Officer

Katy is a writer and artist with a particular interest in nature and place who has had poetry, prose and illustration widely published in journals and anthologies. She grew up in Dumfries and Galloway and returned to raise two children here, then studied at University of Glasgow’s Dumfries Campus, both undergraduate and master’s level, developing her practice in environmental communication. Katy then worked for D&G Council’s Trading Standards team, researching consumers in poverty before working as an intern for GSA Biosphere’s PLACE project. katy@sup.org.uk 07909 212288 Contact: katrina@sup.org.uk 07796 129565

Our trustees

Our Board Of Directors

Dr Chris Miles (Convenor)​

Until 2017 I was the Area Manager for South of Scotland with Scottish Natural Heritage. Since retiring from SNH I have focused on working for a number of charity Boards with a community and environmental focus and on furthering botanical recording and learning in Dumfriesshire.

I became a member of the SUP Board in 2017 and became Convenor in 2019. Since then SUP has set out a way forward in a new Strategy. We have also seen Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere become independent, the establishment of Southern Uplands Partnership Services Ltd, the continuation of many successful projects, including through Covid and significant contributions to the development of Enterprise and Landuse work across the Southern Uplands.

I have been the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) vice county recorder in Dumfriesshire since 1996. In that time I have contributed to the 2000 and 2020 Atlases, written two Rare Plant accounts for Dumfriesshire and set up the Dumfriesshire Botany Group.  Since 2017 I have been a Trustee and since 2019 Chair of the Board of BSBI.

I live in Boreland, north of Lockerbie, and Chair the Hutton Community Fellowship and the Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group SCIO. These distribute windfarm funds via grants to deliver benefits to the local communities, the latter using Southern Uplands Partnership to administer the scheme. In addition, I have led the work to secure a shareholding in the Crossdykes windfarm for the community.

Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey is a young farmer from Ruberslaw, between Jedburgh and Hawick, where he was born and raised and where he continues to run his family farm. On the farm, Robert has focused on native woodland creation/restoration and native livestock breeds. Robert has also been involved in local heritage projects, like the Twelve Towers of Rule, which aims to preserve local heritage and many local ruins through community involvement and education. 

John Esslemont

Following his retirement from local government John became a member of the Southern Upland Partnership Board in 2019.

John spent almost 40 years in local government as a strategic planner in the West of Scotland, actively involved in strategic land use policy development within the Strathclyde area and latterly within Ayrshire where he managed the Ayrshire Joint Planning Unit.

John grew up in rural Aberdeenshire and Angus before attaining a geography degree at Aberdeen University and a post graduate degree in regional planning at Glasgow University.

John is a chartered member (retired) of the Royal Town Planning Institute and a past convener of RTPI Scotland.

John is married and lives in Rutherglen. He enjoys hill walking and skiing.

Sarah Macdonald

I am a project manager with 30 years’ experience and a proven track record in tourism, regeneration, and event management.  Since moving to the Scottish Borders twenty years ago, projects have included a National Lottery project: ‘Land of Creativity’ and two LEADER funded projects: ‘The New Ways Events Innovation Scheme’, supporting local event organisers and communities; and ‘Visit Tweed Valley’, a project which developed the Tweed Valley brand and opportunities to become a world class activity centre.  In addition, I have also held marketing and events posts at the historic properties of Traquair House and Floors Castle.

More recent tourism projects have an emphasis on regeneration: ‘Made in Hawick’, a tourism initiative celebrating and capitalising on the manufacturing calibre of Hawick and the ongoing ‘Selkirk Means Business’ initiative, the first Business Improvement District for the Scottish Borders.

Most recently I have joined the team at the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, the new DMMO for the region, and am presently the project lead for the South of Scotland’s Stories Experience Collection: Making Great Memories in the South of Scotland.  An exciting project which provides product and experiences for the area’s celebration of Scotland’s Year of Stories in 2022, as well as a long-term goal to be a world class literary tourism destination.

Dr Joan Mitchell

Joan is an active partner in family upland farm at Carsluith, near Newton Stewart; trustee and chair of Galloway &Southern Ayrshire Partnership Board; chair Newton Stewart Walking Festival.

Joan’s academic background is in Biogeography with a Phd in bracken ecology. Joan was elected councillor in Dumfries & Galloway Council from 1994-2007 with periods as deputy leader of the council and chair Planning & Environment. Other councillor roles included chair D&G Access Forum and involvements with European Committees such as EU Committee of the Regions.

She has previously served on board of Southern Upland Partnership including a period as chair.

She is also a former chair of Dumfries & Galloway Tourist Board Board, member of Scottish Natural Heritage 2007-2013 including a period as chair Scientific Advisory Committee. Served for ten years on South of Scotland Forestry Advisory Committee, served on Forestry Commission panel assessing applications for community ownership Former trustee Cree Valley Community Woodlands.

Prof. Dave Roberts

In 2021 Dave retired from SRUC , where he was Head of Agriculture and Business Management Dept.. He has worked in Dumfries and Galloway for over 35 years and has a particular interest in ensuring that we have a competitive agri-food industry which also meets high environmental and animal welfare standards. In addition to work in the UK he has been involved in the development of dairy farming training and education in Malawi working with colleagues at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.


He is Scottish Regional Chairman for LANTRA and is also a Trustee of the Crichton Foundation and Chair of the Hannah Dairy Research Foundation.

Mark Rowley

Mark’s route to the Southern Upland Partnership is representing Scottish Borders Council as the newly-elected councillor for Mid-Berwickshire. He is also SBC’s Executive Member for Business and Economic Development, where Broadband & digital connectivity, tourism, sustainable development and housing fall into his remit. A happy co-incidence is that he now chairs the South of Scotland Alliance.

He’s currently working on Scottish Borders’ engagement with the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, building the case for the wider Borderlands initiative across five Borderlands local authorities and advocating extension of the Borders Railway.

Aside from politics, Mark’s empathy with SUP comes as an upland-dweller. Since making his home in Longformacus, at the heart of the Lammermuirs Hills Special Landscape Area, he has been a vocal advocate for the Lammermuirs and upland life generally. Having chaired a particularly-active Community Council, and promoted civic and amenity groups, he’s developed an understanding of the challenges of lobbying on rural issues.

His professional experience is largely in tourism; developing experiences, project-managing and promoting some of Scotland’s highest-profile hospitality businesses. Spare time is consumed by the challenges of walking his terriers along the Southern Upland Way and attempting to grow vegetables organically at almost 800 feet.

Alan Smith

Alan was born, brought up and educated in the Glenkens area of Dumfries and Galloway.  His family have farmed in the area for five generations.    After thirty years of a career in banking and finance, primarily in London, he returned to make the area his home some eleven years ago, moving into the house his parents were married in. 

He is passionate about the south of Scotland and what it can offer for all who work, live and visit.  In addition to his involvement with Southern Uplands Partnership, Alan is on the board of Galloway Community transport and a trustee of the Pamela Young Trust, a local housing charity.  He has recently stood down as chairman of Glenkens Community & Arts Trust Ltd and Loch Ken Trust and has until recently been a member of the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Advisory Board.

Alan’s main leisure interests are adventure travel, classic cars, reading and Queen of the South.

Dr Emily Taylor

Dr Will Williams (BSc. MSc. DPhil. Dip TP)

With Aberdeen University degrees in geology & ecology and research on the vegetation history of Skye since the end of the Ice Age, Will worked for 30 years for government nature conservation agencies in Scotland and England. As Director, Natural Economy Northwest, he championed the community and economic benefits of investing in the natural environment. He was a member of the National Trust national Natural Environment Group and chaired the North of England National Trust Advisory Board. Before that he was a Trustee of John Muir Trust. He chaired the Cumbria Third Sector and was a member of the Cumbria Leaders Board.

After retirement he and his wife, Sheila, moved to live near Kirkcudbright. Being a trustee of the Southern Uplands Partnership for 4 years, he has become involved with a strategy and projects that make a difference for both nature recovery and local communities. He is a trustee of the National Trust for Scotland and a trustee/Treasurer of the Friends of the NTS Broughton House and Garden. Finally, he is a committee member of the Kirkcudbright History Society and a research volunteer with the Stewartry Museum.

His interests include the enjoyment of wildlife and landscapes, researching local history, watercolour painting of landscapes and jazz musicians, as well as trying to master the tenor saxophone. His Welsh speaking comes in useful for the understanding of Brythonic place names.