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Scotland’s business community sends open letter to Ministers over “high risk economic self-harm” of testing policy divergence from UK

 

A group of business organisations led by the Scottish Tourism Alliance has written to economy focussed Ministers and officials seeking an urgent meeting on the renewed crisis in the tourism sector and supply chain as a result of Scottish Government policy.

Open letter from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scotland’s business communityOpen letter from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scotland’s business community

Commenting on the letter CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc Crothall said: 

“The Scottish Government’s latest decision on international travel restrictions, specifically around Day 2 testing has caused serious alarm across the travel, tourism and hospitality sector in Scotland and the broader business community.

I have received a steady stream of messages over the course of the weekend from businesses presenting direct and immediate evidence of the impact of the Scottish Government’s decision on international travel restrictions; as an example, one inbound operator has been told to direct all future bookings to airports south of the border.

It is the grave concern of many that international bookings, revenue and visitors are being lost not just now but should this policy remain, it could destroy any hopes of recovery in 2022.  Unless there is a swift change, the Scottish Government’s position on international travel will effectively write off international tourism to Scotland for another year to the detriment of our businesses, communities, supply chain and wider economy.

 

Our industry has gone above and beyond guidance and legal requirements to protect public health and support the Scottish Government’s efforts to curtail the spread of the virus and curb cases; we have requested that a member of the Scottish Government’s public health team also attends this meeting to explain how the most recent analysis of data supports the view that international travel is driving transmission.  This policy is causing immediate damage to revenues and represents high risk self-harm for jobs and the economy in the short, medium and long term.”

 

Rebecca Brooks, Managing Director of Abbey UK inbound tour operator said:

 

“The Scottish Government’s incomprehensible decision to diverge from the UK government in maintaining PCR testing for fully vaccinated international visitors to Scotland ensures no international recovery in the short to medium term as we now lose out to England and our European neighbours.

European countries have benefitted from the safe restart of International travel without testing for the vaccinated since the 19th July.  Given the immediate onset of the booking window for 2022, there is and will be no international demand whilst PCR testing remains in place, impacting the supply chain for both leisure and business sectors. Inbound operators are now facing the bleak reality of entering a third year with little to no business whilst this colossal disadvantage remains and face potential market failure after nineteen months of no trade. I would call on the Scottish Government to urgently revise their decision or risk the survival of this sector and all of the livelihoods who depend on it.”

Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network commented:

“We simply fail to comprehend and are shocked by the Scottish Government’s decision not to align with others to remove the need for a PCR test for double vaccinated tourists and business travellers. This is not only about the tourism and travel industry, it touches every part of our economy.  Do we seriously believe that our economy will grow, and we will be able to attract investment, without being connected and accessible to the world?

The impact, if this decision if not reversed quickly, is that we will have airlines and operators withdrawing from Scotland with businesses being forced to direct all our exporting and importing trade through other airports.  How will this support jobs in Scotland?”

 

We need to hear and see the data which has driven this decision which is completely contradictory to leading global scientific evidence.”

 

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Article published 27/08/2021

International travellers to Scotland will be able to use private sector COVID tests

People will be able to use private sector tests when returning, or visiting, from green or amber list countries under a change to international travel restrictions.

The step will allow people to choose from a list of approved providers when booking the tests they will need to take after arriving in Scotland.

People previously had to book NHS home PCR tests via the UK Government’s booking portal.

The opportunity to ease the restriction – which will come into effect in early September – has been made possible by enhanced monitoring of the performance and reliability of private testing providers to ensure public health safeguards are maintained. There is also the additional safeguard of removing any provider that does not meet stringent performance measures.

“The step provides more choice and flexibility for travellers and will provide a boost for the tourism and aviation sector.

We have had regular engagement with the UK Government to understand the measures being taken to ensure test results will be communicated rapidly and reliably to both individuals and to contact tracing services.

We have also been reassured that any positive results will be genomically sequenced to quickly identify any variants of concern.

The decision carefully weighs the benefit to the travel sector against our responsibility to the wider public health, and is a further endorsement of the resounding success of our domestic vaccination roll out.”

Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care

Background

The current list of eligible test providers can be found on the gov.uk website.

Since 17 May, international travellers arriving in Scotland have been required to comply with certain requirements or restrictions, depending on which country they have arrived from. This can include self-isolation and undertaking tests at specified points after their arrival.

Self-isolation is no longer required for international travellers arriving from amber list countries, provided they are fully vaccinated through a UK, EU or USA vaccination programme and take a PCR test on the second day after arrival.

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Scottish Seabird Centre Welcomes Young People’s Champion Louise Macdonald as its First Ambassador

One of the UK’s leading conservation and education charities, the Scottish Seabird Centre, has announced that Louise Macdonald, the national director for the Institute of Directors and former CEO of Young Scot, the award-winning youth information and citizen charity, has become its first ambassador.

Since its establishment the Scottish Seabird Centre has supported tens of thousands of young people to develop their curiosity in, and understanding of, Scotland’s amazing coastal and marine environments through its community-based education and outreach activities. The charity also supports young people in their early careers in conservation, education, tourism and hospitality, through direct employment and student projects and placements.

In welcoming Louise Macdonald as the first ambassador for the Centre, Susan Davies the Chief Executive said: “We are thrilled that Louise has agreed to become the first ambassador for the Scottish Seabird Centre. Her passion for championing and supporting children and young people in shaping their own futures is greatly admired. Louise is also a great lover of wild places and the benefits to wellbeing from being connected with nature.

“Louise will challenge how we engage with children and young people and support us in forging new partnerships that help inspire them to care for, and challenge all of us, to protect Scotland’s amazing marine wildlife.”

On taking up the role, Louise Macdonald said: “I am delighted to be able to support Susan, and the whole Scottish Seabird Centre team, in their drive to offer more opportunities to young people, right across Scotland, to help them experience the wonders of Scotland’s marine wildlife.

“We are at a critical time where the need to tackle climate change and loss of nature has never been more self-evident. Through dialogue, learning resources, and interactive experiences the Charity has an important role in enabling young people to have their voice about the importance of Scotland’s marine environments to them and to the communities they live within.”

In her role as ambassador, Louise will directly advise the Scottish Seabird Centre team on how to best engage and inspire even more children and young people across Scotland through their activities, educational programmes and new partnerships.

Institute of Directors.Scotland.
Royal College of Physicians,
Queen Street , Edinburgh,
Scotland.
Portraits of the new National Director of Institute of Directors.Scotland , Louise Macdonald.
Credit – Phil Wilkinson

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Famous fins make a welcome return to Hebridean seas

Over the past 20 years, much-loved minke whales – Kasey and Knobble – have been returning to the waters off the west coast of Scotland each summer, highlighting how important Hebridean seas are for these animals. Incidentally, both whales were spotted for the first time this year on the same day – Tuesday 27th July!

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is now appealing to members of the public to get involved and send in photographs of any whales and dolphins they’ve snapped, to try and identify the individuals. Using a technique called photo-identification (photo-ID), HWDT researchers can build a better picture of both individual whales and the wider population.

First recorded in 2002, Knobble has been re-sighted more than 50 times, with most encounters in the waters around Mull during July and August. This year was no different, with Andy Tait – a dedicated guide with wildlife tour operator, Sea Life Surveys – spotting Knobble and taking photographs to confirm the identity of the whale.

“What a day! We were close to the Cairns of Coll, when our old friend popped up and circled the boat at a distance. Knobble the minke whale was surfacing in different places and certainly kept us on our toes!” Andy Tait, Sea Life Surveys Guide

Much of what we know about Knobble are thanks to Andy Tait’s photos and sightings reported by Sea Life Surveys. Prior to this encounter, Knobble’s last known whereabouts was a similar spot, on the 27th  of August last year (also by Andy Tait). However, there is still much to discover about these majestic animals, including solving the mystery of where they go in the winter.

Further north that same day, Lesley Hawkins captured a fantastic video of Kasey the minke whale during a trip with Arisaig Marine. This inquisitive whale surfaced right next to the boat, much to the delight of all the folks on board, giving them a great view of Kasey’s distinct dorsal fin with three nicks along the trailing edge. First photographed in 2000, Kasey is another regular visitor to the Hebrides and has been seen more than 30 times during the past twenty-one years.

Andy and Lesley’s recent sightings reports highlight how vital boat crews and the public are to track the movements of individual animals year after year and contribute to long-term monitoring in the region. Anyone can get involved and the Trust have had photographs submitted from land, tour boats, kayaks and ferries, that have contributed to their photo-identification catalogues, that have been running since the early 1990’s.

Photo-ID is a non-invasive research technique and is an extremely useful tool for learning more about whales and dolphins. Whales and dolphins have distinct dorsal fins that can be used to identify an individual, much like our fingerprints.  By curating catalogues of the individual whales and dolphins found off Scotland’s west coast, we can build a deeper understanding of these enigmatic creatures.    “If you’ve got any photographs or videos of whales on the west coast of Scotland, past or present, please get in touch. Your photos help us to build a long-term picture of whale movements in Scotland and show if individuals favour particular areas. They can also teach us about the health of individuals, and we can learn more about the threats that they face. With these insights into their lives, your photographs provide the evidence needed for their protection.” Pippa Garrard, HWDT Education Manager

It’s not just minke whales, the Trust catalogues sightings of all whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks seen on the west coast of Scotland. HWDT researchers are currently updating the minke whale catalogue, so what better time to help improve our understanding by sending in your photographs for analysis.

You can easily log your excursions and report your sightings on their free smartphone app, Whale Track. To upload your photos visit the easy-to-use Whale Track website at www.whaletrack.hwdt.org, or e-mail sightings@hwdt.org.

“Every single sighting and photo is important and we would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who is part of the Whale Track Community and has taken the time to report what they have seen.”  Pippa Garrard, HWDT Education Manager.

 

Knobble the minke whale

 

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Puffling Watch – national education and conservation charity calls on public to help Firth of Forth pufflings

One of Scotland’s leading conservation and education charities, the Scottish Seabird Centre, is calling on residents and visitors to East Lothian and Fife to help the endangered puffin population by looking out for young puffins as they begin to leave their burrows on nearby islands and become disorientated by lights from the mainland.

Every summer, adventurous, though slightly confused, pufflings are rescued from a range of tight spots along the Firth of Forth coastline, including underneath cars, behind bins and plant pots. The puffin is red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as it is globally vulnerable and declining in numbers. By reporting any unusual sightings of the small grey chicks, residents and visitors play a vital role in helping this much-loved seabird. Once reported, the team from the Scottish SPCA or the Scottish Seabird Centre can collect the pufflings and release them in safer areas, away from known predators.

Scottish Seabird Centre Conservation Officer, Emily Burton, explains: “Puffins and their pufflings are now leaving their burrows on the Isle of May and other islands in the Firth of Forth. Pufflings fledge at night to avoid predation and some pufflings can become disorientated by lights from the mainland. This may see them flying into town and seeking somewhere dark to hide from predators such as underneath cars, behind bins and under plants in gardens.

“When we’re notified of their misadventures, we carefully collect the pufflings take them out to sea and release them, well away from the dangers of the mainland. They then typically swim off into the North Sea, where they will stay for the next three years.

“We are appealing for people to be extra vigilant over the next few weeks and, if they spot a puffling, to immediately alert the Scottish Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.”

“It is important to note that pufflings look completely different from their adult counterparts. People often don’t realise what they can see is a puffling! They are shades of grey, white and black; their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have during the summer.”

This year, around 4000 apparently occupied puffin burrows were recorded on Craigleith and around 45,000 in total on islands in the Forth, with two adults and one puffling for each successful burrow nest.

The Scottish Seabird Centre leads a number of campaigns focusing on the conservation of seabirds and the marine environment including SOS Puffin, a project to remove an invasive plant called tree mallow. This plant can prevent puffins from nesting on the nearby islands of Fidra, the Lamb and Craigleith, and cause significant population decline.

Over the last 14 years more than 1300 SOS Puffin volunteers have made regular trips to the islands to control the tree mallow, allowing the populations of breeding puffins to recover.

 

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New £3m investment fund for boat-based tourism in Scotland

Crown Estate Scotland has  launched a special fund to help promote the sustainable development of Scotland’s marine tourism sector.

The £3m challenge investment fund will also help aid the green economic recovery for coastal communities who rely heavily on boat-based tourism, by helping them to expand their ability to support the growth of marine tourism in their area, such as new shore-based and harbour facilities.

It is the first of three challenge investment funds set to be launched by Crown Estate Scotland, with schemes for local partnerships and innovation with natural resources to follow. Together the funds will total approximately £9m, and will take the form of direct commercial investments by Crown Estate Scotland.

As the manager of Scotland’s seabed plus around half the foreshore, Crown Estate Scotland is committed to finding new and innovative ways of supporting the coastal economy, especially after what has been such a difficult time for coastal communities who rely on being able to attract visitors.

Applications are encouraged from those who can demonstrate an ability to make a positive impact on boat-based tourism and have a strong track record of partnership working. The potential investments will range from £350,000 to £750,000 for projects that align with wider regional development priorities.

Andy Wells, Director of Property for Crown Estate Scotland, said: “It was always our intention to launch this fund as part of our wider commitment to support Scotland’s blue economy, but with so many communities suffering from the pandemic’s impact on tourism and hospitality, we hope this is a timely announcement.

“People come from all over the world to enjoy Scotland’s seas and coastline, and we want to do all we can to help Scotland’s coastal communities fully benefit from a revived tourism sector.”

Minister for Tourism Ivan McKee said: “I’m very happy to hear of this investment from Crown Estate Scotland to support coastal communities in improving their local tourism infrastructure, and I would greatly encourage applications from those who could benefit.

“Many of these communities have been strongly impacted by the pandemic and this initiative will support long term economic recovery of coastal communities, increasing opportunities for enhanced visitor spend. As we begin to lift restrictions we are determined to do all we can to further develop sustainable tourism growth in Scotland.”

Alan Rankin, Chief Executive at Sail Scotland, said: “The fund has come at a critical time for the sector. Marine Tourism will play a key role in the sustainable recovery of the national economy and is recognised as the life blood of many rural coastal and island communities. This specific fund is most welcome and will drive vital investment into infrastructure and help build the quality of the world renowned boating and marine experiences around our shores.”

Martin Latimer and Simon Limb, Joint Chairmen of British Marine, said: “ Scotland British Marine Scotland have been working closely, at a strategic level, with Crown Estate Scotland for many year to strengthen Scotland’s marine tourism offer, known for bringing valuable revenue to the  Scottish islands and remote coastal  and waterside settlements. The sector’s ambition to increase its contribution to the Scottish economy to over £1/2bn recognises the importance of investment in capital projects and the catalytic effect this has on business & community development. The Scottish Marine Tourism Strategy, Giant Strides, has the development stronger communities and sustainable businesses at its heart and consequently the fund for the development of Boat-Based Tourism is greatly appreciated by our organisation”.

The full criteria and background information of the fund can be found here. The process has also been designed to align with the Scottish marine tourism strategy Giant Strides. The criteria reflects feedback received from a consultation which was previously carried out by Crown Estate Scotland.

All enquiries to the fund should be submitted to BBTFund@crownestatescotland.com.

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National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2021 is coming!

This year’s Sea Watch National Whale and Dolphin Watch takes place from Saturday 24th July to Sunday 1st August 2021 and we’re asking members of the public to help.

Now in its 20th year, Sea Watch Foundation’s annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch event is just around the corner, and more important than ever. From 24th July to 1st August, Sea Watch Foundation invites you to take part in a national event that seeks to take a snapshot of the incredible cetacean life around our coastlines!

Sea Watch Foundation has been operating for over 30 years, delivering on its mission to aid in the conservation of whales, dolphins, and porpoises through monitoring, research, and education. Sea Watch’s cetacean sightings database is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and its decades-long research in areas such as Cardigan Bay have led to the formation of Special Areas of Conservation for bottlenose dolphins, just one example of the direct impact of their work.

In a time of increasing anthropogenic and human pressures on the marine environment, understanding the status of cetaceans and other marine mammals in British and Irish waters is more important than ever. Recording sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises helps us to understand their distribution, diversity, and behaviour, which contributes to ongoing research by Sea Watch Foundation and other organisations. Last year, during the week of National Whale and Dolphin Watch, 1,348 sightings were recorded nationally; that’s an average of one sighting per hour for every site surveyed! We have over 30 recorded species of cetacean in our waters, so this year, why not discover what’s in your area?

No experience is needed to participate – just patience, enthusiasm, and some binoculars. If you’re going to be close to the sea during the week of 24th July to 1st August, get involved!

To register your watch, simply email nwdw2021@gmail.com. You will be provided with our Sea Watch Foundation recording forms to record your effort and sightings during your watch, or you can also record data using our new free Sea Watcher App, available on the App Store. You can also download a species identification guide via our website for help identifying species during your watch!

Currently we have 412 confirmed watches, which you can view here. If you’d like a bit more support, or this is your first time surveying, we also have virtual training sessions available, which can be booked by emailing the relevant address. Training sessions will cover all the basics of cetacean ID and how to collect data effectively.

Please remember if you are conducting watches, to do so within any local Covid-19 guidelines to keep yourselves and others safe.

If you register a watch with us, and send back your data to us before August 15th at nwdw2021@gmail.com, you could also be in with a chance to win some amazing prizes in our raffle, kindly donated by our 11 event sponsors Rip Curl, Made of Sundays, Dani Williams Illustration, The Felt Meadow, Heron on the Roof, Falcon Boats, Lee Renée Jewellery, Deep Blue Tales, Padstow Sealife Safaris, Giuditta Migiani Art, and Newquay Sea Safaris and Fishing.

Casual sightings are also welcome throughout the week, but will not be entered into the prize draw. You can submit any casual records using the online sightings form.

The team at Sea Watch will offer online training and advice on how to take part: https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw-2021-online-training/

Sponsors have also donated amazing prizes for people who participate in the NWDW watches: https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/national-whale-dolphin-watch-2021-raffle/

Visit https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/nwdw/ for details, or contact nwdw2021@gmail.com.

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New film asks Scottish Government and public to choose rewilding 

Scottish Rewilding Alliance ramps up world’s first Rewilding Nation call with launch of new film ‘Choices’ on 22 July

 An alliance of nature charities in Scotland is ramping up its call on the Scottish Government and people to choose rewilding at a critical moment in the country’s political and environmental history with the launch of a new short film.   

Despite Scotland’s reputation as a place of natural beauty, from the dramatic peaks of Skye’s Trotternish Ridge to the vast sweep of Glencoe, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance says the science tells a very different story. Scotland is one of the most nature-depleted places in the world.

As part of its campaign to make Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation – a move backed by more than a dozen MSPs – the Alliance is hosting a free online event on Thursday 22 July to launch its new film ‘Choices’.

The film presents its Scottish audience with a number of ‘choices’ about their relationship with nature.

These include do we choose to expand our natural pine forests into huge areas of trees, shrubs and wildflowers – a place full of bird song and wild animal tracks? To have flower rich meadows in our towns and cities and create places where our children can develop, explore and play? To ensure oceans teeming with fish, whales and dolphins – full of food and supporting coastal communities who rely on nature for their living?

The Alliance says people can help achieve these aspirations by supporting rewilding, which is the large-scale restoration of nature.

The live launch event will hear from a panel of people who have already chosen to make nature recovery a priority for their respective businesses and communities.

They include Lynn Cassells from Lynbreck Croft in the Cairngorms, Sophie Ramsay from Bamff Ecotourism estate in Perthshire, Will Goudy from the Seawilding project at Loch Craignish in Argyll, and Kevin Cumming from the Langholm Initiative in Dumfries and Galloway.

Mark Ruskell MSP from the Scottish Greens will deliver the event’s keynote speech. On 15 June, Ruskell (Mid-Scotland and Fife) submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament to make Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation. The motion was backed by polling in which 76% of Scots expressing an opinion supported rewilding, with just 7% opposed.

Steve Micklewright, Convenor of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and Chief Executive of Trees for Life, said: “As Scotland readies itself for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow later this year, the Scottish Government needs to demonstrate global leadership by prioritising rewilding.

“If the SNP makes a deal with the Scottish Greens to create a majority in Holyrood, we’re asking that it includes a promise to rewild at least 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030. This can be achieved by restoring and expanding woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats, and without loss of productive agricultural land.

“A community fund to make rewilding accessible from towns and cities, creating pollinator corridors and urban wildflower meadows could improve the population’s mental health and wellbeing, while reducing pollution and making urban areas more enjoyable places to live.”

Peter Cairns, Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture and host of Thursday’s live event, said: “As a nation we’re only just beginning to experience a baseline shift in our perception of Scotland’s environment. While open hillside is still deemed by many to be beautiful, there’s an increasing awareness that our celebrated landscapes are dramatically lacking in biodiversity, native woodland and wildlife.

“We’re far past the point of inaction – that’s no longer a choice we can afford to make. Despite many superb conservation initiatives, Scotland is lagging behind other countries, with its nature in steep decline.”

Declining or at risk species include red squirrels, wild cats, capercaillie and great yellow bumblebees. Recovery or return of species such as beavers, cranes, sea eagles and pine martens happen slowly, while elk and lynx are among the species already made extinct.

The Scottish Government has put 37% of Scotland’s seas into forms of designation, but damaging activities such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling are only banned from less than 5% of coastal waters. Government assessments reveal that the extent of seabed habitats continues to decline. Wild salmon populations are at historically low levels. Seabirds are feeding their chicks plastic waste.

The Alliance recommends using rewilding as a natural solution for increasing absorption of atmospheric carbon, building rewilding into post-Covid green recovery plans, and establishing a native species recovery policy and a nationwide network connecting nature recovery projects.

 

 

Red Squirrel leaping onto pine trunk © SCOTLAND: The Big Picture scotlandbigpicture.com

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First UK festival to support conservation of golden eagles reveals full programme

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The full programme for the UK’s first ever golden eagle festival, The Moffat Eagle Festival, has been revealed by a groundbreaking conservation charity initiative.

With a keynote speech by one of the country’s leading wildlife film makers Gordon Buchanan, a family fun day, a Big Tree Climb and live music sessions, the programme also contains a number of fun and engaging events to help people understand how they can take an active role in increasing numbers of golden eagles in the south of Scotland.

The Moffat Eagle Festival, led by The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, will take place between 19 and 26 of September 2021 to support the charity’s conservation efforts and celebrate the vibrant town of Moffat becoming Scotland’s first Eagle Town.

The festival will also showcase pioneering ways in which landowners and managers, residents and visitors can help golden eagles to flourish in southern skies once again.

One of these events will look at the development of Selcoth Forest, one of the Dumfries and Galloway’s newest forests that has been designed to play a supportive role for a number of species and raptors including golden eagles. This event will explore how good woodland management can play a vital role in supporting conservation efforts.

Speaking about the Festival, and the significance of the talk by the team at Selcoth Forest, Colin Edwards, Environment Policy Adviser for Scottish Forestry said: “The Moffat Eagle Festival is a fantastic and important addition to the wildlife calendar. We’re particularly delighted to see that some of the Selcoth Forest team will be speaking at the event. They have been consulting closely with organisations like South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project and Scottish Raptor Study Group so that they can create a landscape in which woodlands  play a positive role to increase golden eagle foraging habitat, helping to establish and sustain a local population. Their work is an excellent example of how sustainable forest management can support conservation efforts, while also delivering social and economic goals for landowners and the wider local community.”

The privately owned Selcoth Burn Woodland Creation is designed to strengthen forest habitat networks, protect local views , improve biodiversity, protect water quality and provide a sustainable timber resource for the owners. Scottish Forestry has approved plans for the woodland creation, which are in line with The UK Forestry Standard and Scotland’s Forestry Strategy, and work is now underway. Consideration has been given to how the woodland can provide the ideal habitat for golden eagles to forage in. The development includes a permanent native birch woodland, alongside productive broadleaves, conifers and large areas of open ground, which will enable the site to have multiple benefits and create a good habitat for golden eagles. It its envisioned that as the scheme develops, prey species will become more abundant for eagles which will help to sustain a growing local population.

Cat Barlow, Project Manager for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project added: “Last year, a pioneering sustainable forest development led to breeding success for a pair of golden eagles in a Highland estate, so we are absolutely thrilled to be consulting with the team at the Selcoth Forest on this development in the south of Scotland, and we’re excited to see how this can support our charity’s conservation work.

“Support from forestry and land managers, local communities, funders, volunteers, raptor specialists and other participants is absolutely vital in helping us to ensure golden eagles continue to grow in numbers and thrive in the area.

“We’re really looking forward to attending the Moffat Eagle Festival so that we can thank our supporters and help even more people understand how they could support our work.”

Gordon Buchanan will deliver the festival’s first virtual keynote speech about golden eagles and other Scottish wildlife on Friday 24 September. Speaking of his involvement, he said: “I’m delighted to be part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project’s first ever Golden Eagle Festival and to support their important conservation work to ensure golden eagles once again flourish in southern skies.

“The thrill of seeing a golden eagle soaring over a Scottish hillside is an unbeatable experience. Each glimpse of this magical bird is special, but they should and could be more common in the south of Scotland.”

The full Moffat Eagle Festival programme includes events and activities delivered by a range of leading wildlife groups including RSPB Scotland, NatureScot, Scottish Forestry, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Wild Eskdale, and the Scottish Raptor Study Group. There will even be a workshop delivered by a leading wildlife photographer.

Caroline Clark, Director Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The Golden Eagle Festival is yet another innovative way in which The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is helping communities learn about this awe-inspiring bird of prey and the role it plays in Scotland’s biodiversity. Thanks to funding from players of the National Lottery, not only will the Festival bring new visitors to discover this beautiful part of Scotland, but it will help safeguard the golden eagle’s existence for future generations.”

 

Welcoming their town’s role in supporting the project and hosting the festival, Leys Geddes chair of Visit Moffat said: “Less than a mile from the motorway, we are ideally situated to become Scotland’s First Eagle Town, to host the first Eagle Festival, and to celebrate the golden eagle – one of Scotland’s most iconic species.

“The Moffat Hills are often described as mini-highlands, owing to our 300 square kilometres of hills, outstanding scenery and rich wildlife, so the perfect area for golden eagles to thrive. It would be wonderful to ensure they become a regular sighting for visitors to the area.”

South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project partners include NatureScot, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Forestry, and the Southern Uplands Partnership.  The project has been funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners, Scottish Power Renewables, the Scottish Government and local LEADER Programmes. The initiative is a key project under the Scottish Government’s 2020 Challenge for Scottish Biodiversity (which has a route map to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity).

For the latest project news, or to donate to the charity initiative, visit: www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk

Ends

 

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First Minister Statement 13th July 2021

 

The First Minister has confirmed to Parliament that all parts of Scotland not currently there will move to level 0 on Monday 19 July.  Although there have been modifications made to the original indicative plans as a result of the challenges posed by the Delta variant.

The modifications include:

  • All hospitality required to close at midnight (From 00.01 on Monday 19 July, hospitality settings can open till midnight, where their licence allows, and customers no longer be required to pre-book a two-hour slots.  However, customers will still be required to provide contact details to assist Test & Protect and to wear face coverings except when seated).
  • The limit on outdoor group gatherings of 15 people from 15 households will remain in place.
  • No physical distancing is required within groups of 15, but will be required between groups of 15. The economy secretary will work with the events industry to explore how events already organised might still go ahead with modifications.
  • Gradual return to the office delayed for at least 3 weeks (9th August) and employees still asked to work from home where possible.

Further information on what Level 0 means for all sectors is available here and the First Minister’s full speech can be found here.

In addition, from 04:00 Monday 19 July, fully vaccinated travellers and children arriving into Scotland from Amber List countries will no longer be required to self-isolate and take a day eight test. Adults and children over 12 will still take tests before travelling and on day two after arrival. Anyone testing positive for or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will still require to isolate for 10 days.

The First Minister will provide a further update to Parliament in the week before the next review date on 9 August but the intention is to move beyond level 0 on the 9th August. 

  • The FM highlighted and indicated that beyond Level 0:
    • Close contacts will not have to self isolate so long as they are double vaccinated more than two weeks ago and take a PCR tes

 

Some measures are expected to continue beyond Level 0 including:

  • good hand hygiene and surface cleaning
  • continued promotion of good ventilation
  • a requirement for face coverings in certain settings (e.g. public transport and retail)
  • continued compliance with Test and Protect, including self-isolation when necessary
  • an ongoing need for outbreak management capability, including active surveillance
  • a greater degree of working from home than pre COVID-19 where this is possible and appropriate based on business and employee choice

 

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