Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels: the next steps in the south of Scotland


Since 2017 SSRS has helped establish 17 dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer Local Network Groups across the south of Scotland, providing them with training and support to control grey squirrels and monitor, promote and protect red squirrels where they live.

As our latest 2022-24 SSRS Transition Phase comes to an end, all volunteer groups in the south of Scotland will now be classified as fully independent, although SSRS can continue to support efforts via our Community Hub, social media pages, and some necessary professional grey squirrel control in key areas.

Below is a list of FAQs for independent red squirrel networks operating in South Scotland that we will update when further resources and information becomes available. Please refer to this page in the first instance, but if you have a question that is not covered here you can or email the project at squirrels@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Last updated: 21st March 2024

 

SOUTH SCOTLAND VOLUNTEER NETWORKS


Yes. Limited funding from SSRS partners has been secured to enable continued SSRS grey squirrel control in some priority areas in the south of Scotland for at least the next six months, with the Scottish Wildlife Trust continuing to lead and employ staff.

Priority areas to be covered are:
• Annan Valley PARC
• Nith Valley PARC
• Solway Forests PARC
• Tweeddale PARC and northern parts of the Teviot & Rule PARC

Some additional ongoing support will also be available from our HQ team for communications and Community Hub activities, further details below. To get in touch with SSRS staff for support please email squirrels@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk 

A very ambitious aim of the 5-Year ‘Developing Community Action’ phase and the 2-year ‘Transition’ phase was to set up and equip a network of volunteer groups in South Scotland capable of independently taking forward red squirrel conservation in the region, with the help of some central SSRS co-ordination. We have been amazed at the success of the 17 volunteer red squirrel networks across South Scotland, covering almost the whole footprint of the project’s Priority Areas for Red squirrel Conservation, thanks to the exceptional drive and dedication of the volunteers.

As of 1st April 2024 all groups will now be Independent Networks as a result of having the following criteria in place:

• A constitution or Terms of Reference for the group;
• 3 elected office bearers – Chair, Secretary, Treasurer or equivalents; and
• A bank account in the group’s name (or funds ring-fenced within the bank account of a local Community Initiative);
• Or the group is operating under a local community trust, similar organisation, or other independent structure (i.e. as a Community Interest Company).

Members of independent networks will no longer be registered Trust volunteers and therefore all networks will need to have in place their own group insurance to cover activities. The Red Squirrel Forum for South Scotland may be able to put you in touch with other groups who have already arranged this.

Important note: Independent groups should register all their members to ensure they are covered by the group’s insurance. Template volunteer registration forms and induction paperwork are available on the Hub’s Resources page.

Yes. From April we will begin the process of de-registering volunteers from independent groups and destroying paperwork as appropriate, in accordance with GDPR guidelines. This will not affect your account on the Community Hub.

If you have additional administrative rights or permissions on the Hub (e.g. you are a group administrator or you verify squirrel sightings) or if you volunteer elsewhere within the Scottish Wildlife Trust, you will continue to be a registered Scottish Wildlife Trust for your Hub and other activities only and your information will simply be updated to reflect this.
 

The Red Squirrel Forum for South Scotland acts as an umbrella organisation for volunteers in all 17 independent groups in the south of Scotland. Their role is primarily to assist with cross collaboration between the groups, and put groups in touch with one another to share skills, experiences, and advice. Examples include help with bank accounts, running of and materials for events and engagement activities, and assistance with fundraising. Please refer to the Forum ‘Offers and Needs’ chart in the first instance, available on the Hub Volunteer Communications Group (coming very soon: accessible only to volunteer network admins and sightings verifiers).

Independent groups can continue to enjoy full use of the Community Hub and access the wide range of training and guidance resources that have been produced during the DCA and Transition phases. Groups should first and foremost consult the Handbook for Independent Red Squirrel Groups and Networks followed by the large range of guidance and templates both available on the Hub’s Resources page.

Subject to staff availability, limited support will be available for independent groups for the following activities:

  • Social media and communications: SSRS staff are happy to assist groups with advertising volunteer recruitment/ group meetings/ other group activities. If you would like us to do this email squirrels@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk
  • Grey squirrel control: Independent groups should first and foremost refer to their network trainer (if they have one) and then the Forum offers and needs chart for training in grey squirrel dispatch and set up of trap loans. In the next instance until end-Sept SSRS staff may be able to assist, dependent on area and availability.
  • Squirrelpox outbreaks: In the case of squirrelpox outbreaks across multiple group areas SSRS staff may be able to help with co-ordination between groups and communications support. Until end-Sept, support for pox-responsive trapping may also be provided, dependent upon location.
  • Community Hub General FAQs: Independent groups should first and foremost contact their Volunteer Network Admin, who will get in touch with the appropriate SSRS staff or volunteer support as needed. SSRS staff will also be organising monthly drop-in sessions for Volunteer Network Admins and Sightings Verifiers for the groups.
  • Community Hub Volunteer Network Admins and Sightings Verifiers: New sightings verifiers or volunteer network admins should be recruited and trained initially by independent groups, upon which SSRS will continue to provide support with permissions access to the Hub and Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteer sign-up processes. Please email squirrels@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk.

Please note SSRS will no longer be able to provide any of the financial support that was available during the Developing Community Action and Transition phases. Fundraising guidance and support is available via the Resources page on the Hub, and through the Forum via the ‘Offers and Needs’ chart.

Any additional SSRS equipment and merchandise has been given to the Red Squirrel Forum for South Scotland to distribute amongst the independent volunteer networks. For more details and to arrange use please contact the Forum.

SSRS efforts in South Scotland throughout the DCA and Transition phase helped to develop and evidence the efficacy of various techniques and protocols for coordinated grey squirrel management, mechanisms for data collection and interpretation, and the crucial importance of volunteer support and community engagement in achieving landscape-scale conservation aims. However important lessons have also been learned during this time, including the need for ongoing staff support for independent volunteer networks and the long-term requirement for professional grey squirrel control staff to cover areas inaccessible or otherwise not feasible to be successfully managed by volunteer effort alone. There is also recognition from SSRS partners that this support needs to be mainstreamed with reliable long-term funding and integrated with red squirrel conservation efforts in northern England for improved cross-border collaboration going forward.

In addition to supporting cross-border red squirrel conservation efforts led by other landscape partners, over the next six months, SSRS staff and partners will be working to develop and trial a “cooperative community funding model” in which estates, landowners, and others can contribute to a common fund dedicated specifically to supporting the long-term employment and resource for regionally dedicated Grey Squirrel Officers. With time, we hope to further extend and grow this model within the relevant priority landscapes. With enough time and community investment, we are optimistic that this model could help decouple roles from the necessity of project and government funding cycles and allow far more resiliency in the protections for local red squirrel strongholds in South Scotland.