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First Minister Statement 15th June 2021

Today in a statement to Parliament the First Minister confirmed there would be no changes to the current COVID-19 Protection levels. She cautioned that it was unlikely any part of the country would move down a level at next week’s review which will consider possible changes from 28 June onwards. It had been previously hoped the country would move to Level 0 but the First Minister warned that it was more likely that current restrictions would be kept in place for a further three weeks to give more time for people to be fully vaccinated.

The First Minister also said any changes that can be made safely within the levels will be considered.

In addition, the Scottish Government intends to publish a paper setting out what life will look like beyond level 0 when all or virtually all restrictions can be lifted, and also publish the outcome of the review on physical distancing, next week.

Read the full statement here.

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South of Scotland tech challenge seeks carbon capture breakthrough

 Four conservation and community development organisations in the South of Scotland have launched a challenge to companies to find an innovative technological solution to tackling climate change through land use.

A partnership between conservation charity the John Muir Trust, the Langholm Initiative community development trust, rural development charity Southern Uplands Partnership and the economic development agency South of Scotland Enterprise aims to discover how technology can help landowners better understand the potential for carbon storage on their land and so inform land-use decisions.

They have put the challenge out to tender through the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme, which exists to invite entrepreneurs and start-ups to help solve challenges faced by public sector organisations.

Although data on the potential for carbon storage on different habitats does exist in various forms – for example in satellite data – it often cannot be accessed or processed in a meaningful way by land managers.

The successful candidates will then be placed into a tech accelerator programme to explore promising ideas that will be piloted on the new 5,200-acre Tarras Valley Nature Reserve on Langholm Moor in Dumfries and Galloway. Successful trials at Langholm could inform wider adoption of the technology across Scotland and beyond. The resulting products and services will be revealed in March 2022.

The vast nature recovery area at Langholm was created in March 2021, after one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen – supported by the John Muir Trust, South of Scotland Enterprise and others – led to the South of Scotland’s largest community buyout.

The reserve has a diversity of habitats including globally important peatlands and native woodlands, which each have different carbon capture and storage potential, biodiversity importance and economic opportunities.

New technology could, for example, more accurately assess how to ensure the right native trees are in the right place through either planting or natural regeneration, or inform decisions around actions such as peatland restoration or conservation grazing.

“With the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve land owned by the community for the first time in its history, we want it to be an inspiring case study for tackling the nature and climate crises while supporting community regeneration. This exciting tech challenge could see the South of Scotland lead the way in pioneering innovative carbon capture breakthroughs,” says Langholm Initiative Trustee Kevin Cumming.

A winning solution to the challenge would empower landowners and managers to promote and implement nature-based solutions to the climate crisis that would also support livelihoods and the economy.

For the John Muir Trust, who in early 2021 promoted the concept of a ‘natural land carbon tax’ to help incentivise and fund more nature-based solutions to the climate crisis across Scotland, this is a big step.

“Scotland has won praise worldwide for its ambitious climate change targets. In this year of COP26, it can once again show global leadership by bold action to bring about progressive land use for the benefit of climate, communities and nature,” says Mike Daniels, Head of Policy and Land for the John Muir Trust.

Indeed, the South of Scotland is well placed to take the lead in setting ambitious targets for green recovery and a greener economy.

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) said: “SOSE is delighted to be part of the CivTech 6 programme and support the goal of bringing technological innovation to the South of Scotland.

 “We look forward to working with the Langholm Initiative, John Muir Trust and Southern Uplands Partnership on the Challenge to look at how technology can help landowners measure the potential for carbon storage on their land, and also better inform land-use decisions. Natural Capital is hugely important to the South of Scotland.

“The tender marks the start of this exciting programme and offers a fantastic opportunity for tech companies to secure a grant to explore innovative and groundbreaking ideas.”

CivTech is embedded in the Digital Directive of the Scottish Government, and operates by offering a series of funded tendered annual ‘challenges’ to industry to solve problems through a competitive process. Challenge 6 is for 2021/22 and launched on 14 June 2021. Tech companies are invited to tender, and can do so by going to the CivTech website civtechalliance.org/civtech-6.

 

Langholm Moor © David Lintern / John Muir Trust.

 

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New project launches to provide funded sailing programmes for young people affected by lockdown

Image Credit: Matthew Dickens

A new campaign, Our Isles and Oceans, has launched in Scotland today which will create funded programmes for young people affected by the pandemic and lockdown. The Our Isles and Oceans mission statement is ‘Youth Opportunity and Professional Development for Sustainable Livelihoods’ and intends on, through the vehicle of sport and business, highlighting the importance of a sustainable future for the next generation through activities and partnerships with sustainable organisations and enterprises.

The cornerstone of the project will be a partnership with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Through this partnership, Our Isles and Oceans and the Clipper Race will be providing funded sailing programmes for young people to learn to sail on the West Coast of Scotland.

Our Isles and Oceans is calling for 18- to 35-year-olds to apply to its initiative, as the pandemic has had a negative impact on the age group’s education and employment opportunities over the last 15 months. The charity Young Minds ran surveys* earlier this year and found that 67% of young people believe that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health. Our Isles and Oceans aims to provide positive experiences for these young people.

This new project will create social benefits and business growth in the UK, develop enriching participatory events, and spread positivity and inclusion throughout the British Isles. Through the programmes, businesses will work with young people to provide opportunities for professional development and will focus on building confidence and promoting sustainable livelihoods. This will be a training atmosphere where individuals will gain life experiences and will be fun, exciting and unique.

The Clipper Race is the only event of its kind which offers everyday people the opportunity to train to become ocean racing sailors. The confidence built and the skills learnt through the sport of sailing can be transferred from on deck to the workplace which is why the first Our Isles and Oceans programme to launch will take place on a Clipper Race yacht.

This summer, along the West Coast of Scotland, up to 50 successful candidates will take part in a funded sailing course on board an Our Isles and Oceans branded (68 ft) Clipper Race training yacht. Under the guidance of a Clipper Race Training Skipper, each group of recruits will be challenged to learn new practical skills, develop their self-belief and work as a team.

In addition, 10 of these recruits will then be offered the opportunity to apply for an additional four weeks of intensive ocean racing training to be held at the Clipper Race Training HQ in Gosport, Hampshire. If successful, they would receive a funded place on board the (70 ft) Our Isles and Oceans team entry which will be competing in the Clipper 2023-24 Race. Each recruit would complete one leg of the Clipper Race circumnavigation. Taking part in this endurance challenge would see them face oceans such as the North Pacific, North or South Atlantic and Southern Ocean, carrying the message of Our Isles and Oceans from a national to a global stage. The Our Isles and Oceans team will compete alongside other organisations and cities and will visit notable ports across the world.

With young people being particularly impacted this past year, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, record-breaking sailor and co-founder of the Clipper Race, hopes this new programme will make a positive change in the successful candidates’ lives.

“Sailing is so much more than just a sport or pastime as it gives you experience that is as useful in the workplace as it is on board a yacht. The sport develops self-confidence and self-esteem which is so important to restore following the pandemic.

“Everything you do on board a sailing boat is practical and I feel practical skills have somewhat been lost over the years. Knot tying is one of the obvious skills that will be learnt but the crew will also start to understand the weather, the enormity of the sea and how to cope with them both.

“Problem solving is key to sail training, as is leadership and teamwork. You’ll often find young people are judged too early. Putting them on a yacht, with a team, is a great equaliser. You’ll see things are picked up quickly and as each challenge is overcome, confidence grows, with a new belief in themselves that they can achieve anything.”

Recruitment for the Our Isles and Oceans campaign opens today. Applicants aged 18-35 can apply through www.ourislesandoceans.co.uk. The focus of recruitment will not be based on past job or work experience but will instead be based on an applicant’s ambition to take part in this special programme. The campaign is looking to assist people who may think opportunities such as these are out of their reach.

Our Isles and Oceans Founder, David Stewart Howitt, explains:

“In these challenging times, Our Isles and Oceans seeks to bring together the powerful forces of business and sport to offer an inspiring opportunity for the youth of today.

“Our Isles and Oceans will offer applicants the chance to learn from experienced professionals and to push themselves outside their comfort zone to equip them for the challenges of today’s marketplace.

“Outwardly focused and with a relentlessly positive approach, we at Our Isles and Oceans believe that there is opportunity for all given the right chance. We also want to bring awareness to the plight of the oceans and to promote the importance of sustainable livelihoods.”

The Our Isles and Oceans campaign begins with the first series of sailing programmes in July 2021. Applications are now being accepted through the website at www.ourislesandoceans.co.uk

Image credit Matthew Dickens

Follow Our Isles and Oceans at

www.facebook.com/ourislesandoceans

www.instagram.com/ourislesandoceans

www.twitter.com/OurIslesOceans

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Scotland could lead the way in water wellness trend (14.06.21 – Herald Scotland)

IT was a growing trend during lockdown as people took up wild-swimming and embraced the great outdoors and seems that Scotland could be set to ride the wave of a growing wellness trend.

Water Wellness, also known as Blue Mind, is linked to the positive influence water can have on our physical and mental health; the feeling of calm or peacefulness that is sparked when in or near water. The Blue Mind theory was explored in the book by Wallace L Nichols on the effects of water in all of its shapes and forms on our health.

Now VisitScotland, the national tourism organisation, believes that due to its many lochs, rivers, canals and coastlines, Scotland is ideally placed to become one of the hottest destinations to embrace this movement.

YouGov research commissioned by VisitScotland, as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, found that almost three quarters of UK adults, 73%, think that being near water can reduce stress levels, while nearly two thirds, 65%, believe it can reduce anxiety and depression.

It also found that the most popular activity that UK adults would like to do on a holiday in Scotland to help them relax and unwind would be walking along a deserted beach, 63%, followed by a walk in woodland, 59%. Total sample size was 2103 adults and the figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 18 and over.

With miles of picturesque coastlines, over 30,000 lochs and other scenic waterways, VisitScotland believes the trend could provide a welcome boost to the country’s valuable tourism industry as it recovers from the devastating impact of COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, activities such as wild-swimming and paddle boarding have grown in popularity as individuals consider new ways to look after their physical and mental health. Increasing evidence about the benefits of ‘cold water therapy’ on the body have also led to growing interest around spending time in ‘blue space’.

With that in mind, VisitScotland has launched new activity which aims to inspire visitors to embark on their own water wellness journey throughout Scotland, showcasing businesses and locations which offer water-based wellbeing experiences.

Chris Greenwood, VisitScotland Senior Insights Manager, said: “Similar to forest bathing, water wellness is that connection to our natural resources and its impact on our physical and mental health. The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the wellbeing of people all across the country and over the past year we’ve seen evidence of people embracing activities that help address this, such as the increasing popularity of wild swimming.

“With its remote lochs, breath-taking beaches and bustling waterways, Scotland is ideally placed to capitalise on the trend for water wellness and there is an exciting opportunity for businesses to benefit by promoting the experiences they can offer.

“Our research, inspired by the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, demonstrates a recognised appreciation of the positive influence water can have on our wellbeing. Tourism has been one of the biggest economic casualties of COVID-19, and as the industry looks to recover, we will continue sharing inspiration and insights as to what visitors are looking for now travel is possible again. Tourism and events will help to rebuild the Scottish population’s well-being – everyone deserves a holiday, and Scotland, and all it offers, will be the perfect antidote after lockdown.”

Outdoor specialists Adventure Carrick said Scotland is riding on the crest of a wave with water wellness and saw inquiries for their paddleboard courses and water-based activities soar last summer when lockdown was eased.

Chris Saunders, of Adventure Carrick, said: “People feel better when they have spent time at the coast or out in nature and never quite known why, but now we have the science to show that it can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing. Last summer we had a six week period where we were inundated with people wanting to come and try our activities.

“Paddleboarding seems to have been the new craze and we also ran guided coastal and forest walks. There is also forest bathing – which is literally all about get out and immersed in nature.”

Wild swimming uptake prove popular in lockdown an beyond

Among the activities which could be described as Water Wellness experiences is wild swimming. Cold water therapy is a hot topic in the world of wellness thanks to its positive benefits on the mind, body and spirit but Scotland’s breath-taking beauty adds an extra special element to the experience. Suggested locations include Loch Morlich in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, as well as beaches such as Gullane and Eyemouth

Recognised as one of the fastest growing sports in the world, paddle boarding could also be considered as Water Wellbess and is one way to explore Scotland’s blue spaces, as well as keeping you active. Suggested locations include: Galloway Activity Centre (Dumfries & Galloway) Willowgate Activity Centre, (Perthshire) Adventure Carrick (Ayrshire) and Pinkston Watersports which offers visitors Stand Up Paddleboarding experiences close to Glasgow city centre.

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Outdoors Scotland Project Manager Consultant

An exciting opportunity has arisen to help shape the future of the Scottish outdoor tourism market.

Outdoors Scotland is an initiative led by Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland and supported by the Scottish Government to drive Scotland forward as the leading and world-renowned place for sustainable, and environmentally focussed marine and outdoor adventure activities.

We seek to appoint a consultant to drive forward research, understanding of our place in the market, our industry – its strengths and its opportunities and develop a road map for future growth and investment.

 

The role will be supported by a strong Industry Leadership Group with additional support from Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland boards and executive teams.

 

Full details of the consultant’s brief can be downloaded HERE

 

The deadline for submissions from interested parties is 9th July 2021

 

 

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WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT – Wild Scotland #keepscotlandwild Photography Competition

Over the course of May 2021, Wild Scotland ran a #keepscotlandwild photography competition. Participants were encouraged to share pictures on Instagram either of people enjoying Scotland’s outdoors actively and responsibly or of Scottish landscapes, nature and wildlife along with the hashtag #keepscotlandwild. The winner will receive the perfect items for plastic-free and leave no trace packed lunch. A 21oz flask from the brand Hydro Flask and a reusable beeswax wrapper from BeeBee & Leaf. Full competition details here.

The competition closed on the 31st of May with over 500 entries! Out of this, 10 images were shortlisted, and 9 images were presented to the judging panel with photographer permission on the 3rd of June. (See the #keepscotlandwild judging panel here.)

And the winner is…

Arran from Ardrossan at sunset. Taken by Alex (Marty) McNaughton. 19/05/2021.

 

Alex (Marty) McNaughton was selected unanimously as the winner by the judging panel with his sunset picture of Ardrossan beach. The picture was taken on the 19th of May, 2021. When selected for the shortlist Alex said, “It was taken on a Fuji xt3 with 18-55 lens on a tripod. It was taken with an f16 aperture to make the sunburst. The cyclist is Nicky Turner from West Kilbride who just happened to turn up as I was photographing the sunset with long shadows on the old timbers on the beach.  We chatted and he is a retired employee of Ordnance Survey and loves cycling in Scotland.” After being informed that he was the winner Alex commented, “It’s really pleasing to have won the completion and to receive a price. The old saying goes – the right place at the right time – certainly holds for landscape photography.”

Rupert Shanks, who was on the judging panel and is a professional outdoor photographer/videographer working with Wilderness Scotland commented, “I was delighted to be part of the judging panel on the Wild Scotland photography competition. It was such a strong range of images celebrating the best of Scotland’s outdoors. What I loved about Alex’s sunset shot at Ardrossan was not only the epic sunset view, but the way this light was bringing out the textured ripples across the beach. That wavy pattern is so symbolic of the seaside for me, I could almost feel the sand between my toes. The way the driftwood was composed in the shot added a real 3-dimensional feel as the shadows cast long across the foreground, giving me a sense of actually being there. Finally, the reflected mountain biker gave a Dali-esque dreamy feel. This encapsulates the sensation of those peak outdoor experiences; when a sense of wonder washes everything else away. That’s what Scotland’s wild places can do for us if we let them and this image is a perfect reminder.”

Alice Basson, also on the judging panel and Senior Marketing Executive at GRM Marketing added, “Alex’s image really captured my eye due to the stunning lighting and the feeling the image was ‘a moment captured.’ All the judges felt it fulfilled the brief engaging with the beautiful coastline of Scotland and our relationship with the environment around us.”

At Wild Scotland we are so excited with the engagement of the competition, from the public sharing incredible pictures of Scottish outdoor activities, landscape and nature, and also by the involvement of the judging panel. Through this competition the team wanted to highlight the incredible nature and outdoors in Scotland and hoped to encourage people to appreciate and be responsible with the way they experience Scottish nature. Adhering to outdoor access code, respecting local people and local wildlife and taking rubbish home. We are thrilled that the #keepscotlandwild hashtag is still being used, now featuring over 700 posts on Instagram, and active usage on Facebook and Twitter. A huge congratulations to Alex (Marty) McNaughton for winning, and we are pleased to say his prize is on the way. 

If you would like to contact us about the competition please message marketing@wild-scotland.com.

The shortlisted entries (full post to follow with more details about these amazing images and photographers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Legal challenge to Scottish Government’s beaver killing policy to be heard at Scottish Court of Session 

A legal challenge by Trees for Life to the Scottish Government’s beaver killing policy will be heard by the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Thursday 3 June and Friday 4 June.

 Trees for Life says the Government’s nature agency NatureScot is breaking the law by failing to make the killing of the protected species a last resort when management is required. 

 The rewilding charity says NatureScot must consider moving beavers to areas of Scotland where they would be welcome and can help boost biodiversity, rather than issuing licences for them to be killed when they cause local damage to farming interests. 

 The case aims to ensure a safer future for beavers, which can help tackle the nature and climate crises because their dams create nature-rich and flood-reducing wetlands. Trees for Life also says any management changes must be practical and effective in protecting farmers’ interests.

 “A ruling in our favour could transform the fortunes of Scotland’s wild beavers. But whatever the legal outcome, this case is spotlighting glaring inconsistencies in the Government’s approach to protecting this still-fragile native species – and why a more nature-friendly, climate-friendly and farmer-friendly approach is needed,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive.

 The Government declared beavers to be legally protected in 2019. But NatureScot has since issued dozens of killing licences when beavers are said to be damaging farmland – even though laws on protected species require management to have the least possible impact on their conservation status.

 Given the legal protection afforded to beavers and the logic of taking a precautionary approach to their management, Trees for Life is making a strong case that all viable non-lethal alternatives to killing should be explored so that killing of beavers is genuinely a last resort.

 Trees for Life agrees with NatureScot that beaver impacts sometimes need to be managed, but believes NatureScot is legally obliged to consider trapping and relocating beavers as an alternative to lethal control of beavers when it issues licenses – something NatureScot contends. 

The court’s view of these arguments will be one of the key points of the judicial review. It is expected that it may be the end of the summer before the court’s verdict is announced.

Lawyer Adam Eagle, Chief Executive Officer of legal specialist rewilding charity The Lifescape Project, which is spearheading the litigation with Trees for Life, said: “We’ve studied hundreds of pages of material obtained from NatureScot through Freedom of Information requests, and we’ve compiled strong arguments that current beaver licensing practices breach the Scottish Habitats Regulations on several fronts.”

A judicial review ruling that lethal control should only be a genuine last resort could allow conservationists and others to identify, with proper community engagement, suitable sites across Scotland to which beavers can be moved and be welcome – boosting biodiversity, creating wildlife tourism opportunities, and preventing potential damage to farmland elsewhere.

Currently the Scottish Government is blocking such relocations, even though NatureScot has identified over 100,000 hectares of suitable habitat. This is limiting the options for Tayside farmers whose land or crops are damaged by beavers, often putting them in the position of having to shoot the much-loved animals.

Trees for Life’s public crowdfunder to cover the legal costs of the judicial review raised over £60,000.

A judicial review – a court review of official decision-makers’ decisions and actions to ensure they are lawful – can only proceed when there is a recognised legal ground and if the applicant has the legal right, known as ‘standing’, to bring a challenge.

 Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. See treesforlife.org.uk.

Beaver © scotlandbigpicture.com

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First Minister Statement 1st June 2021

In a statement to Parliament today, the First Minister confirmed Glasgow will move to Protection Level 2 from 00:01 on Saturday 5 June 2021 following case numbers falling in recent days.

A number of council areas – including Highland, Argyll and Bute; Aberdeen City; Aberdeenshire; Moray; Angus; Perth and Kinross; Falkirk; Fife; Inverclyde; East Lothian; West Lothian; West Dunbartonshire; Dumfries and Galloway; and the Borders – will move to Level 1. In addition, the Islands that are currently in Level 1 will move to Level 0 due to sustained low numbers of cases.

However, Edinburgh and Midlothian; Dundee; East Dunbartonshire; Renfrewshire; East Renfrewshire; North Ayrshire; South Ayrshire; East Ayrshire; North Lanarkshire; South Lanarkshire; Clackmannanshire; and Stirling will remain at Level 2 for a further period while the situation with the virus is monitored closely.

The First Minister confirmed support will be offered to soft play and other closed sectors in these areas that had expected to open, or operate in a different way from 7 June. Further details will be laid out tomorrow.

During her COVID-19 statement to Parliament, the First Minister covered the following:

  • The FM confirmed that a further 478 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the previous 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 236.389. She also noted that 106 people were in hospital, with 10 individuals receiving intensive care. Further, she confirmed that no deaths had been recorded, bringing the total to 7,669. On vaccinations, the FM observed that 3,267,290 people had received the first dose of the vaccine and 2,075,231 had been given a second dose.
  • The FM noted that the government believed that vaccinations were working but that a move towards looser restrictions was likely in the future. However, she noted that the Indian variant was having an impact and that the UK could be at the start of a third wave of the virus. Overall, the FM argued that the data showed that vaccination was working but there is still grounds for caution.
  • The FM announced that:
    • Based on an improving picture, Glasgow City will move to level 2 from midnight on Friday.
    • A number of local authorities would remain in level 2 (Edinburgh and Midlothian, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, the three Ayrshires, North and South Lanarkshire and Clackmannanshire and Stirling).
    • A number of local authorities would move into level 1 (Highland, Argyll and Bute, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Angus, Perth and Kinross, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, East and West Lothian, West Dunbartonshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders).
    • A number of local authorities would move into level 0 (Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and some other small remote island communities).
  • The FM closed her statement by encouraging viewers to test themselves, get vaccinated, and abide by the rules in place.
  • In the following questions, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called for a more localised approach rather than a council-wide one and criticised the FM for taking a blanket approach. The FM defended her approach, urging that the data supported a cautious approach. Scottish Labour leader urged the FM to focus on ‘hotspot’ areas and to do more to support the forward planning for them. The FM gave further detail on what was being done with these, paying particular attention to vaccines. Scottish Green co-convenor talked about evictions, which the FM reassured her was a priority for her government. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie urged the Scottish Government to restart services for adults with special needs. The FM noted the importance of this issue and stressed that she was balancing safety with opening. Tory MSP Miles Briggs asked for the FM’s position on homeless people being kicked out of short-term accommodation and serviced apartments. The FM said that she would reply in more detail later.

Read the full statement here.

The Scottish Government’s timetable for easing restrictions has been published. The timetable sets out how and when we plan to lift the current coronavirus restrictions over the coming weeks and months.

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Dive In to The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival’s Digital Debut

Ahoy Portsoy Celebrates the Year of Coasts and Waters Online

Organisers of one Scotland’s leading celebrations of maritime heritage are encouraging audiences to register to be part of its digital debut, Ahoy Portsoy.

Scottish Traditional Boat Festival fans can sign up to become part of history when the event goes online for the first time on Saturday, June 26.

The full festival programme will be free to view through a link sent to all who register here:

https://stbfportsoy.org/

Portsoy’s renowned boat festival, which annually draws in 16,000 visitors to the Aberdeenshire town, is being delivered digitally with the backing of EventScotland as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

David Urquhart, chairman of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival hopes the festival spirit will sweep the region, as well as wider Scotland and beyond, thanks to the unique way to savour the 2021 programme.

“It’s certainly been a different approach for us to take this year,” said Mr Urquhart. “Instead of bringing festival lovers to Portsoy, we’re taking the festival to them using the power of the internet.

“We’ve got great original content that will showcase the unique qualities of our region and the relationship between community and coastline, to entertain audiences at home and far beyond our shores.

“So come and see how we take the sea and coast, along with boats, maritime traditions, and festival friends, and package that into an online event.

“You might not feel the sand between your toes, but you will be wowed by how our committee has responded to current times to ensure that the show can go on safely while the pandemic remains part of our lives.

“Whether a festival regular, or just curious about our special part of Scotland, we’d urge you not to miss out by signing up now. By registering it ensures you will receive the link to access our online festival when it goes live.”

The virtual programme remains under wraps, but will include a host of festival favourites covering food, drink, dance, music, crafts, entertainments and of course boats and seafaring activities.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland’s Regional Director for Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray Speyside, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the 2021 Scottish Traditional Boat Festival as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. This year’s festival offers a unique opportunity for people to experience the area’s dramatic coastline and maritime heritage in a digital format, providing inspiration for future visits.”

Well established as one of Scotland’s top coastal crowd-pulling events, the festival programme is normally delivered in and around Portsoy’s picturesque 17th century historic harbour.

It did not take place in 2019 due to the pandemic, and in April, organisers announced bold plans to switch to an exclusive online format to ensure its presence in 2021. The virtual offering will provide a taster of what’s to come as it prepares to welcome festival lovers back to Portsoy in June 2022.

This year’s festival has been awarded funding from EventScotland as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, and the creation of a truly memorable virtual festival will celebrate Scotland’s coasts and waters in a format which will shine a spotlight on these vital elements of our landscape.

Scotland’s coasts and waters have shaped our history: from fishing and textiles to whisky and wave power they have influenced our culture, our stories, our way of life.

Whether you want to navigate your way around distant isles or canals, experience Scotland’s maritime heritage at a visitor attraction, enjoy Scotland’s abundant natural larder or discover Scotland’s wildlife on a local boat trip – Scotland’s coasts and waters are perfect for the get-away-from-it-all adventure.

Portsoy’s two-day boat festival began back in 1993, initially as a one-off event to mark the 300th anniversary of the historic Portsoy harbour. Since then, it has become a mainstay of the Scottish events calendar, attracting an international audience.

In 2019, it won best cultural event/festival at the Aberdeen City & Shire Tourism Awards and earlier this year was named Scottish festival of the year by Prestige Awards.

Find out more about the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival on social media at @STBFPortsoy #ahoyportsoy or at https://www.stbfportsoy.org/

 

Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Portsoy ©KMansfield
Scottish Traditional Boat Festival 2009

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Orca Watch 2021: orca from the comfort of your living room! 

For the last 9 years, the end of May has seen groups of volunteers, tourists, and media travel to north east Scotland for the chance to glimpse one of Britain’s most charismatic and exciting species – the orca. Organised by Sea Watch Foundation, the annual Orca Watch event usually takes place over ten days across Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland, with everyone welcome to join in the land-watches, boat trips, talks, and camaraderie. After the cancellation of last year’s event due to Covid-19, this year Orca Watch is back…but with a difference!

Orca Watch Online, held between May 29th and June 6th, will bring the excitement of watching orca in the UK to the comfort of your living room. The week-long programme of virtual events, talks, and daily sighting roundups will celebrate Orca Watch week 2021 whilst keeping the local community, wildlife enthusiasts, and Sea Watch staff safe. This year, the project is supported by NatureScot through the PlungeIn! The Coasts & Waters Community Fund.

Orca Watch began in 2012, a collaboration between Sea Watch Foundation and their regional coordinator Colin Bird. After the announcement that green energy underwater turbines were to be potentially installed in the Pentland Firth, the decision was made to launch the seasonal event to better understand how cetaceans use the area, and the impact that these installations might have on them. The north-east coast of Scotland is a haven for marine mammal and bird life, with orcas, minke and humpback whales, Risso’s, white-beaked, and Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and harbour porpoise all possible to spot from shore.

Now in its tenth year, Orca Watch still keeps this aim at the forefront of the week’s activities. However, rather than welcoming numbers of people to participate directly in land and boat-surveying, this year will instead see a small, dedicated group of locally based  volunteers collecting data on the ground in Caithness, Shetland, and Orkney, operating strictly within Covid guidelines.

The week kicks off with an online evening of orca-themed talks on the 29th May, with talks by experts on orcas and other marine mammals, an exciting prize draw, and introduction to the week. This event is ticketed (cost £6.50) – you can purchase your tickets through Eventbrite.

From Monday 31st, our evening Orca Watch Live session will keep everyone watching from home in-the-loop with a roundup of each day’s sightings and happenings with help from the volunteers on the ground. Two specials will also run during the week, treating participants to presentations with the group of observers and citizen scientists behind the dedicated Scottish killer whale ID catalogue, as well as from scientists researching the predation of seals by orca in the UK. These sessions are all free to attend, but participants will need to register through Eventbrite by searching ‘Orca Watch Live’.

The week will finish with a closing session on Sunday 6th June, looking back on the event, what we’ve learnt, and looking ahead to Orca Watch 2022. All are welcome to join online for a deep dive into the wonders of orcas around the UK!

Sea Watch Foundation is a national marine charity that works to improve the conservation of whales, dolphins, and porpoises in British and Irish waters. With a national database of over 250,000 sightings covering the period 1960-present, Sea Watch Foundation has one of the largest and longest-running sightings programmes in the world, contributing to UK marine policy, conservation, and research.

The charity encourages volunteers, the public, and scientists to undertake land and boat watches to contribute sightings and effort data to this database. Whilst Orca Watch 2021 is an online event, sightings recorded around the UK, whether casual or from planned watches (operating within covid social guidelines), are always welcomed and can be submitted using the online sightings form here: https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform/.

In the organisation and execution of the annual Orca Watch event, Sea Watch works in collaboration with: Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust (HWDT), Orkney Marine Mammal Research Initiative (OMMRI), High Life Highland Countryside Rangers, The Cabin at John O’Groats, Nature Scot, Shetland Wildlife, John O’Groats Development Trust, Dunnet & Canisbay Community Council, and NatureScot’s community funds.

More details on Orca Watch 2021 can be found here:

https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/orca-watch-2021/

https://www.facebook.com/orcawatchers

For any further information, enquiries, or photos please contact: orcawatch2021@gmail.com

For interviews, please contact: Sea Watch Sightings Officer, Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli – orcawatch2021@gmail.com

 

Orca © John Irvine

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