Developing Community Action: the next steps


The Scottish Wildlife Trust is pleased to announce that the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project will begin a two-year transitional phase in April 2022, coinciding with the conclusion of the £4.48m ‘Developing Community Action’ phase which begun in 2017.

This more modest project phase will provide a continuation of some support in all SSRS project areas. It will be designed to help mitigate some of the challenges the project has faced, in particular those associated with Covid-19, and will enable the project to complete its aims, leaving a legacy of sustainable and community-led red squirrel conservation across Scotland.

Below is a list of volunteer FAQs that we will update as more 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 contact your local Conservation Officer or Community Engagement Officer, or email the project at squirrels@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

 

Last updated: 7 January 2022

GENERAL


Funding for the new phase comes from project partners as well as the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with the Scottish Wildlife Trust continuing to lead the project and employ SSRS staff.

The exact staffing structure for the new project phase is still to be determined. Staff will be the first to be informed in early 2022. The £2.46m awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund for ‘Developing Community Action’ (£4.48m total investment) was an exceptional level of funding and this next phase will undoubtedly involve a scaling back of staffing and resources, with a view to completing the Developing Community Action aims and phasing out the current model of repeated funding cycles.

The exact staffing structure for the new project phase is still to be determined. Current SSRS staff will be the first to be informed in early 2022. However grey squirrel control will continue in all SSRS priority areas – the North East, the Central Lowlands and the south of Scotland.

It is envisaged that the trap-loan scheme will continue to operate in all current SSRS project areas. However the landscape coverage and level of support available in each area will be determined once the new project staffing structure is confirmed.

It is envisaged that project staff will continue to participate in public engagement. However, until the staffing structure of the new project phase is confirmed our team cannot commit to any future engagement events or collaborative projects. The new project phase will be focussed on cementing a sustainable approach to red squirrel conservation in Scotland within our existing community and there will always be a need for wider public engagement in order to maintain support for our conservation programme.

The Forestry Grant Scheme and associated funding is managed by Scottish Forestry  and the Scottish Rural Development Programme, and we are awaiting more information on how the Scheme will operate from March 2022. The level of guidance and support available from SSRS staff will be dependent on the staffing structure of the new project phase.

Yes. The Community Hub will continue to operate as normal and the Scottish Wildlife Trust will continue to provide some technical support and maintenance, albeit at a reduced capacity. Work is currently underway to provide volunteer networks more access and control of their data. The data that you have contributed to the SSRS Hub during the DCA project forms a valuable and permanent conservation resource that has already been invaluable to the project and to red squirrel conservation in the round, and will continue to help your red squirrel network to monitor and manage squirrels in your area. This data will continue to grow in importance and value the more of your data you submit, and the more you utilise the Hub data to inform your own ongoing red squirrel conservation work, so please do continue to make best use of this resource.

 

SOUTH SCOTLAND VOLUNTEER NETWORKS


A very ambitious aim of the 5-Year ‘Developing Community Action’ 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 in setting up 18 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.
We understand that a number of the groups already have in place the following 3 criteria:

• A constitution or Terms of Reference for the group
• 3 elected office bearers – Chair, Secretary, Treasurer
• A bank account in the group’s name (or funds ring-fenced within the bank account of a local Community Initiative

Once you have these in place, it is possible for the group to become an Independent Network, and will be regarded as such after the end of the current phase of SSRS at the end of March 2022. At this point Network members no longer need to be registered as Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers (unless you have administrator privileges on the Hub or wish to volunteer for other wildlife conservation work at the Trust).

We recognise that some groups are not yet ready to become independent – especially after the interruptions to SSRS support brought about by the Covid restrictions and by staffing difficulties. This new project phase is intended to give the groups the additional support they need to become fully independent within the 2-year timeframe.

Under the new project phase there will be continued strategic guidance for the work of red squirrel protection in South Scotland, and the Community Hub and the SSRS website will continue to support groups through the range of resources, guides and documents available for you to use to manage your groups.

However, members of independent groups will no longer need to be registered Trust volunteers when carrying out red squirrel conservation work on behalf of the group.

It should also be noted that SSRS will no longer be in a position to provide the financial support that has been available during the Developing Community Action phase.

Members of non-independent groups can continue to operate as registered Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers during the 2-year project phase (or until their network is ready to become independent). Some staff support will be available to assist groups on their journey to independence but at a much reduced level. What shape this will take is still to be determined. However, SSRS will no longer be in a position to provide the financial support that has been available during the Developing Community Action phase.

Independent networks will no longer be registered Trust volunteers and therefore will need to have in place its own group insurance to cover its activities. The Red Squirrel Forum for South Scotland or your SSRS Community Engagement Officer will be able to offer some guidance.

Networks which do not yet meet the criteria for independence will continue to operate as registered Trust volunteers and will therefore be covered by insurance, with a view to transitioning to full independence within the 2-year period.

There are two ways a group can be linked to their local initiative: by having their funds stored there or by being an actual project of the initiative.
If your funds are stored with the initiative, then that counts as your bank account only – so depending on whether you also have a constitution and office bearers, you may be regarded as independent.

If you are an actual project under your local initiative, you will be considered independent.

If your network is independent but you have additional admin rights on the SSRS Community Hub (e.g. you are a group administrator or you verify squirrel sightings) you will continue to be a registered Scottish Wildlife Trust for your Hub activities only.

What additional SSRS equipment and merchandise (if any) can be given to volunteer networks will be decided after the structure of the next project phase is confirmed. Note that these items, including vehicles and IT equipment, remain the property of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and may be redistributed to other projects or sites within the Trust.