As you may have noticed, it has been a while since our last blog post. It is because we have all been very busy! Rachel Tierney, our Development Officer, gave birth to a healthy baby boy in early January. This small matter (!) did not get in the way of the submission of our new funding application to NatureScot (SNH’s new name). The proposal was submitted before the Christmas break, just before Rachel went on maternity leave. Rachel and Gill Dowse did a power of work to get it over the line, I did my bit too.
Who is this I? Jonathan Willet, the new Development Officer. I started in early November, courtesy of funding from NatureScot who extend the Development Officer post until March. The main reason for the post’s extension was to provide continuity in dealing with funders and partners. As well as undertaking future planning so that the new project can start in April (funding permitting).
I don’t come into the role of SBIF Development Officer cold. My involvement with biological recording in Scotland streches back over 20 years and with SBIF since its very beginning. In recent years I have taken a bit of a step back from this due to working full-time as a tourist guide, but it hasn’t taken me long to get back up to speed.
The new project proposal we submitted in December was a reaction to the failure of the full SBIF Infrastructure project to secure funding. An ask of £15million over 5 years from our sector was exceptional in addition to coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant projects not addressing the pandemic were not a priority for Scottish Government funding. However, there was enough interest in the proposal to encourage SBIF to submit a more targeted project addressing the highest priority actions. Namely, ensuring the continuity and accessibility of the Scottish LERC and recording group data.
We still believe that the full Infrastructure is the way forward, but it may take a series of steps to see it fully realised. The new project that I have mentioned will be delivered over two years. It seeks to deliver three key actions by its completion;
- To facilitate the closer working of the LERCs and Recording Groups in Scotland and the signing of formal agreement to do this.
- To create a single species record database for Scotland’s LERCs and manage a phased transition from regional databases to this. By doing so we will secure the long-term future and accessibility of databases whose long-term future is uncertain.
- To provider a single, standardised data product that is available nationally to aid land management decision making.
Another change in the focus of this project is that it would seek to generate new income from supplying this data product. This would allow the project to start to cover its operating costs. However, one principle of the project is to not impinge on the current income streams of the existing LERCs in Scotland.
We believe that there is a legal requirement for better utilisation (or just utilisation) of biodiversity data by public and private bodies. If you have seen the Position Statement on National Planning Framework 4 you will know that it has an enormous, tacit requirement for a great deal of specific biological data products to make sure it is delivered. There are untapped income streams, available nationally and locally, for supplying these products.
With that note of optimism, I shall end the blog. We should hear about the outcome of our funding bid in February. I will keep you posted on our progress. The future beckons with the promise of exciting times ahead.