Lottery cash will go to scheme to protect endangered animal
A red squirrel army is being formed to ensure the survival of the iconic species.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust has been given a grant of almost £2.5 million to enlist hundreds of volunteers in the battle to save the species.
Sites in and around Aberdeen, in the central Lowlands and in southern Scotland will be targeted.
The project aims to provide training to hundreds of people and land managers to help protect the squirrels.
Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels (SSRS) developing community action project will run over the next five years in the three key areas.
The cash comes from a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
Scotland is home to under 120,000 red squirrels, three quarters of the UK population, but they are under threat from competition with introoduced grey squirrels and the spread of the deadly squirrelpox virus.
SSRS Project Manager Dr Mel Tonkin said: "Our work since 2009 shows that through targeted control of grey squirrels it is possible to reverse the decline of our native reds and help them to return to former territories.
"Red squirrels are one of Scotland's most-loved species.
"Thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to empower communities to help protect not just their local red squirrels, but major populations of the species in Scotland, and ensure that future generations can continue to see these special animals."
Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the investment was "very welcome" to help a priority species.
She said: "SSRS has led important work to conserve them since 2009 so it is fantastic that players of the National Lottery will help to mobilise communities to take practical action to protect one of our best-loved animals.”