Southern Upland Partnership battles on through economic crisis

THE Southern Upland Partnership (SUP), which carries out vital environmental work across the region, says it is managing to weather the current economic crisis.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 11:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 11:47 am

That was the message from SUP project manager, Pip Tabor, commenting this week on the latest set of accounts – for 2009/10 – which were published by the charitable organisation at the end of May.

Mr Tabor said: "The situation with the SUP is pretty much the same as it has been for the last few years – that is, core funding is very hard to secure.

"The year just ended was as we expected. This year will be better as we have been offered a core fund grant (10,350) from Dumfries and Galloway Council, which has not been able to contribute anything at all for the previous three years, so we're delighted with that."

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"Overall, the number of schemes fell last year, so income fell and the number of staff also fell – especially as the Communities on the Edge project ended and that had seven staff.

SUP's account figures combine core and project funding. The accounts are a snapshot of the situation as some initiatives are funded in advance and others in arrears.

Total funds available to SUP fell from 324,632 in 2009 to 235,391 this year, while expenditure also dipped sharply from 349,428 to 253,998. Staff costs fell from 186,574 to 96,425 and the number of project staff declined by 50 per cent from 10 to five.

The only increased grant was from Scottish Borders Council, which increased its payout from 21,000 last year to 50,710 this year.

However, the figure of 50,710 rolls up SBC's contribution of 4,000 to SUP core costs with money that the council handles on behalf of the EU Leader rural development programme and wind farm developers to support specific and varying projects.

The council's direct contribution to SUP was reduced from 5,000 in 2008/09 to reflect the need for savings. The apparent increase from SBC comes from increased Leader funding.

The Scottish Natural Heritage grant was down from 100,500 to 63,985. The SNH figure combines a 25,000 core grant with project funding.

The SUP is involved with a range of environmental projects across the whole of southern Scotland, including the Scottish Borders Walking Festival and the black grouse conservation project among others.

"Part of our role is to take an idea for a project and develop it to the point where it becomes reality. Inevitably, not all projects get funding and some fall by the wayside.

"Last year, two really good partnerships, which took a huge amount of time to develop, did not get funding. These were the Land-art Project and the Village Hall Renewable Energy Project.

"To some extent, it is this development work that is funded by our core partners, and they accept that we can not guarantee that all project ideas will succeed.

"As further cuts are made, it will inevitably be harder to get funding for new projects – but these projects will become increasingly important, especially to rural areas such as the Borders.

"We are therefore hoping that the councils and our other partners will consider it worth continuing to support us.

"If we are not there to develop new ideas, it is not clear who else will be able to do this work.

"On the whole, we're pretty happy with the figures. We had to contract just because of the current economic climate. We knew it could be a difficult time but it has been less so than predicted."

Mr Tabor added: "Inevitably in the current climate it is getting harder to secure funding for any project but we have an excellent track record of securing funds and we are confident we will continue to do so."