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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 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, 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:

Sponsors have also donated amazing prizes for people who participate in the NWDW watches:

Visit for details, or contact

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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

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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:



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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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Zero Waste Scotland publishes a new landmark report today, The Scottish Material Flow Accounts, that reveals the size of Scotland’s consumption footprint for the first time.

Hailed as an ‘insightful game-changer’ by environmental academics, the report shows the average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – that’s the equivalent of 50kg per week on average.

Academics agree that a sustainable level of material use, which would still allow for a high quality of life, is about eight tonnes per person per year.

The analysis by Zero Waste Scotland quantifies Scotland’s material footprint for the first time. It shows us the materials we are extracting from Scotland’s natural environment every year, as well as those which are imported, exported, and wasted.

The Scottish MFA report paints a picture of the scale and nature of Scotland’s consumption by calculating all the raw materials used to make products (e.g. oil and metal ores) and all the finished products we consume, whether made in Scotland or imported.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “What the MFA tell us is that consumption in Scotland is unsustainably high. This is, in part, due to the quantity of things we buy. We need a system wide change that enables us all to choose more sustainable ways to live, use the things we need and share resources.”

Kimberley Pratt, Zero Waste Scotland environmental analyst and report author, added: “It is also due to the amounts of materials it takes to extract raw materials and manufacture new products. These processes are resource-intensive, but those costs are not obvious when we look only at the finished product. For example, 25 tonnes of iron ore must be mined to produce one tonne of iron which the average Scot might consume as steel in products such as the buildings we live and work in, cars and electrical appliances.

“This highlights the negative environmental impacts of our production processes and consumption habits which favour using new goods made from virgin materials rather than re-used or repaired goods, or goods made from recycled materials or from remanufacturing.”

The evidence of the Scottish MFA shows there is an inextricable relationship between what Scotland consumes and its global climate impact.

With the current global political agenda focussed on accelerating a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, ahead of COP26 later this year in Glasgow, the report provides a base of evidence to help us rethink how we consume in Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said:   

“The Scottish Government is committed to ending our contribution to climate change within a generation. To make that happen, we need to understand and reduce the impact of the products and materials we consume.

“This is the first report of its kind for Scotland, and it will be a vital tool for engaging people in discussions on how we reduce the impact of our consumption. It is clear that the more materials we extract and use, the more damage we do to the climate and to nature.

“That is why we are committed to building a circular economy in Scotland. By encouraging reuse, repair and recycling, and designing products to last as long as possible, we can reduce the demand for raw materials, and the emissions that come with them. We will be introducing a Circular Economy Bill to help support that transformation.”

Mr Gulland added: “The MFA will be a valuable tool to inform new approaches that will deliver lasting, impactful change to the way we consume raw materials and play our part in tackling the climate crisis.

“We know that a circular economy is one of the solutions as it promises to maximise value from the goods we already have in circulation while relieving pressure on finite natural materials, like oil and precious metals. Achieving that requires a joint effort from all sectors – from individuals to designers, industry, and governments – and can help us generate new opportunities for Scotland from inward investment to new, ‘green’ jobs.

“Scotland’s buoyant re-use sector and our growing circular economy already provide us with more sustainable options to buy the things we really need.  I urge Scots and Scottish businesses to consume conscientiously. Let’s consider making changes to our buying habits in all walks of life to help rebuild an economy compatible with protecting the environment and tackling the climate emergency.”

Zero Waste Scotland is tasked by the Scottish Government with accelerating the development of a circular economy, a system which makes things last by keeping resources circulating in a closed-loop economy. This differs from our current linear economy in which we simply take, make, and use products before throwing them away, sometimes after only one single use.

The Scottish Material Flow Accounts is available on the Zero Waste Scotland website:

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River partnership seeks public feedback

The partnership tasked with looking after the River Dee catchment has published a summary of their achievements over the last 15 years and is seeking public comment on priorities for future projects. Established in 2003, the Dee Catchment Partnership is one of Scotland’s foremost catchment partnerships, representing 16 organisations that share the common aim of restoring habitat and water quality in the Dee catchment.

Manager for the Catchment Partnership and Freshwater Ecologist at the James Hutton Institute, Dr Susan Cooksley, explains: “For 15 years we’ve been working from a Catchment Management Plan at local, regional, national and international scales. The catchment partnership has invested thousands of hours of staff time and over £10 million in restoration projects in that time, so has a strong track record in catchment planning, project delivery and raising awareness.

“It’s now time to create a new delivery plan for the Partnership to direct our projects for the next 5 years. We want to hear people’s thoughts on our achievements so far – what we’ve done well, but also what we need to do better, or more of – to help us prioritise our actions for the next decade. What are your priorities for the lochs, burns and rivers of Deeside – this is your opportunity to shape their future.”

Comprising seven short sections focusing on a range of topics including Water Quality, Habitats, and Recreation, the consultative summary launches on Monday 5th July, with the opportunity to easily submit feedback on each section, until Friday 6th August.

“The Dee catchment is internationally important for the unique landscapes and species it supports,’ continues Susan. “How we manage the land and water within it has a direct impact on the linked emergencies of climate and nature, both of which must be tackled as part of a successful green recovery for Deeside. We welcome input from anyone with an interest in the river – we all have a role in helping to conserve this special part of the world, and this is a chance to have your say, and be a part of shaping the decisions that will direct our future projects.”

Partners within the group are Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen Harbour Board, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, James Hutton Institute, NatureScot, NFU Scotland, River Dee Trust, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Forestry, Scottish Government, Scottish Land and Estates, Scotland’s Rural College, Scottish Water.

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Lynx and beaver reintroductions should be part of any Green agreement with SNP, says coalition 

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance is calling on the Scottish Greens to make the trial reintroduction of lynx and the widespread relocation of beavers a core part of any agreement they reach with the Scottish National Party. 

The Scottish Greens manifesto stated they ‘support the gradual reintroduction of species native to Scotland where appropriate and in cooperation with local communities, including a lynx reintroduction trial’. 

“The Scottish Greens have committed to restoring nature through rewilding, including a trial lynx reintroduction. If they reach an agreement with the SNP that includes this commitment, many will see this as a sign they can achieve real change through cooperation,” said Steve Micklewright, Scottish Rewilding Alliance Convenor and Chief Executive of Trees for Life. 

The native Labrador-sized Eurasian lynx was driven to extinction in Scotland some 500-1,000 years ago through hunting and habitat loss. It has now been reintroduced to many areas of Europe, including in areas used for farming, hunting, forestry and tourism.

Lynx are shy and solitary woodland hunters that avoid humans. Research suggests the Highlands has enough habitat to support around 400 lynx, which could help to restore nature’s balance by controlling numbers of roe deer, the cat’s preferred prey.

An opinion poll survey by respected market research organisation Survation for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance showed that 52% of Scots supported a pilot reintroduction of lynx, with just 19% disagreeing.

Steve Micklewright said: “A trial reintroduction of lynx will have very strong public support, and there would be no clearer signal that Scotland intends to become the world’s first Rewilding Nation.”

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance also wants to see a better approach to beaver relocations to suitable areas of Scotland where beavers are still missing, to help stop the needless killing of wild beavers when they cause problems for farmers on Tayside.  

Beavers create wetlands that can reduce flooding, improve water quality, and benefit fish and other wildlife. But since the Government legally protected beavers in 2019, its nature agency NatureScot has issued dozens of killing licences – resulting in 20% of the Scottish population being killed in 2019 alone.

Steve Micklewright said: “Nearly all of these beavers could have been relocated to parts of Scotland where local landowners and communities want the benefits they bring, including reducing the risk of flooding. A deal between the Greens and SNP deal must tackle this needless waste of life.”

The Survation poll showed that 66% of Scots support beaver relocation ahead of their authorised killing. NatureScot has identified 100,000 hectares of potential beaver habitat in Scotland, but Ministers have decided to block beaver relocation to these areas.

“Public opinion is in favour of beaver relocation and we have huge areas where they could be moved to. The Greens must ensure that this can happen,” added Steve Micklewright.

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a coalition of over 20 environmental organisations, is calling on the Scottish Government to declare Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation, with the rewilding of 30% of Scotland’s land and sea within a decade.


European Lynx (Lynx lynx) adult female peering out from behind tree in winter birch forest. Bardu, Norway (c)


European Beaver (Castor fiber) low angle close up shot of beaver eating Lilly roots amongst lilies in flower

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More normality if progress continues

23rd June 2021 – Statement from the First Minister

The whole of Scotland will move to Level 0 on 19 July if all necessary vaccination and harm reduction measures are met.

Current levels will remain in place for the next three weeks with a review taking place on 13 July although some changes, such as minor relaxations to rules on events such as weddings and funerals will come into place on 28 June.


During a statement to Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that from 19 July physical distancing outdoors will be removed and physical distancing for indoor public areas will reduce to one metre if the data allows. Limits on outdoor gatherings will also be removed on this date given the reduced risk of outdoor transmission at this stage in the vaccination programme.

Review of physical distancing can be found here.

Anticipated changes from 19 July

  • celebrations of life events such as christenings, bar mitzvahs and anniversaries will be permitted to take place under similar guidelines as weddings and funerals
  • different households will be able to share a bedroom in tourist accommodation

Please see the statement referring to the above here. 

The following vaccinations milestones have been set:

  • 18th July – All adults first dose
  • 26th July – Second doses to ages 40 – 49
  • 20th August – Second doses to ages 30 – 39
  • 12th September – all adults second doses

What does it mean to be in Level 0?

  • 8 people from 4 households in your home or theirs – and can stay overnight
  • 10 people from 4 households in an indoor public place like a café, pub or restaurant
  • Organised outdoor events 15 people from 15 households outdoors
  • Informal gatherings (in gardens for example) it is anticipated there will be no limit
  • under 12s do not count towards the total number of people or households meeting outside but count towards the household numbers indoors

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

The First Minister stated that subject to conditions and harm reduction being met “that it would be possible and proportionate to lift the major remaining legal restrictions on 9 August.”

Current UK Travel Restrictions

Travel is only allowed to the following areas for permitted reasons:
Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Manchester and Salford

See further information here regarding travel restrictions

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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


Langholm Moor © David Lintern / John Muir Trust.


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