The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere Partnership are delighted to announce that the South of Scotland Enterprise agency have committed to a five-year funding agreement worth £1.9M which will see the Biosphere growing its core team and activities across SW Scotland significantly.
The support comes on the back of long standing funding commitments to the Biosphere, made despite the challenges of austerity, by Dumfries & Galloway Council, South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire Councils, NatureScot and Scottish Forestry.
The new enhanced funding partnership offers an opportunity to grow the Biosphere team from the 1.5 full time equivalent staff (FTE) it has operated with recently to an aspiration for 12 FTE over the next few years.
Key priorities over the next five years will focus on how we can support and integrate the sustainability agenda into all our lives, benefitting communities, businesses, landowners, land managers and individuals. They will include;
- Delivery of practical marketing and branding projects to raise the profile, understanding, physical presence and economic value of the international UNESCO Biosphere brand to both locals and visitors
- Expanding and promoting the Biosphere Certification Mark to include new business sectors, offering them specialist advice and support in sustainability best practice.
- Creation of a specialist team who can offer guidance and support to land managers in the development and delivery of biodiversity and land management projects to add value through conservation, learning and sustainable land use
- Developing the Biosphere Communities Scheme to support community level networking, collaboration, learning, discovery and new community based sustainability projects
Joan Mitchell Chair of the Biosphere Partnership said: "The funding support from SOSE is recognition of the dedication and commitment that our funders, support officers, partnership board members and staff have given over the last eight or more years, that has seen the Biosphere grow from lowly beginnings into a key influencer in the region for the sustainability agenda. With climate change, loss of biodiversity and the pressures from Covid all pointing towards the need for a green recovery, the relevance of the Biosphere today really couldn't be more pertinent."
Professor Russel Griggs OBE, Chair of SOSE explained: "We are here to make bold decisions which are in the long-term best interest of the South of Scotland.
"A key part of this is supporting our communities, our environment and promoting long-term collaboration - and what better way to support all of this, than to help support the internationally recognised world class environment for people - that is the Biosphere - and which has all of these values at its heart. "
The international aspects of the of the UNESCO Biosphere network were highlighted by James Bridge, Secretary-General of the UK National Commission for UNESCO who said: "The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is an inspiring, globally recognised place. It was the first Biosphere in Scotland and is part of the worldwide family and network of UNESCO Biospheres. South of Scotland Enterprise's investment in this remarkable community driven organisation contributes both to the local economy and to national and international sustainability.
The value of working in partnership and the additionally that can bring to the wider region was noted by Dumfries and Galloway Councillor Katie Hagmann when she commented, "The Biosphere was a key catalyst in developing and securing the funding for the £5M Galloway Glens project. Initiatives such as this, and our ambitious climate change commitments of reaching net zero by 2025, require continued partnership working, and the Biosphere is a key means of helping us achieve that."
South Ayrshire Councillor Alec Clark focused on education when he said: "The sustainability agenda that the Biosphere represents has never been more important. We already use the Biosphere as a focus for Education for Sustainability in some of our schools, now is the time to grow that out into the wider community where we can use it to create new opportunities that will also benefit our local economy."
East Ayrshire Council's Interim Head of Planning and Economic Development David McDowall added: "Gaining such significant support for the Biosphere could not have come at a better time. We have a number of exciting developments happening in this part of the world including the projects being carried out under the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership and the Ayrshire Growth Deal, with its National Energy and Research Demonstrator (NERD) project in the Cumnock area.
"This announcement of the SOCE contribution to the biosphere marks another big milestone. It really demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable, green future."
Dr. Roddy Fairley from NatureScot Area Manager said: "We have been supporting the development of the Biosphere since its inception and see the SOSE support as yet another huge step forward in its development. The Biosphere can play a key role in improving the lives of the people in south west Scotland through reconnecting them with nature and helping people recognise and understand that a vibrant and diverse biodiversity is an essential component of life. Many of the actions we take to enhance our biodiversity can also help mitigate against climate change whether that is restoring our peat bogs, changing some of our land management practices or supporting the production and sale of local food."
Doug Howieson Scottish Forestry Conservator said: "It's fantastic to see the Biosphere being recognised as a key player in the sustainability agenda in SW Scotland. We look forward to continuing to work with them over the coming years."
With this new funding the Biosphere Partnership are keen to expand membership of the Partnership Board and would actively welcome from potential new members who share the Biosphere ethos and can bring with them skills and expertise in areas such as finance, corporate sponsorship, sustainable forestry, climate change and community development. If you would be interested in joining the Board please contact Ed Forrest firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on what is involved.
More information on Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere can be found at www.gsabiosphere.org.uk.