Skip to main content

17 September, 2018

£5m funding boost for Highlands & Islands tourism

The search is on for 10 major new projects that showcase the outstanding local scenery, wildlife and culture of the Highlands & Islands.

The new Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will support projects that encourage visitors to experience more of the unique nature and culture of the Highlands & Islands.

The fund also aims to benefit communities, with the projects it supports helping to retain local jobs and services.  £5m is available from the fund, with each project to receive at least £250k.

Welcoming the announcement, Ivan McKee, Minister for Trade, Investment & Innovation, said: “Today’s announcement of the £5 million Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund is fantastic news for the Highlands and Islands. This money will go towards improving visitors’ facilities and access to its most remote and rural areas.

“The £5 million comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and will support inclusive and sustainable growth, a key part of the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. Scotland’s breathtaking scenery and culture is recognised around the world, and improving the experiences for tourists in the Highlands and Islands will benefit the national and local economies by sustaining jobs and creating new opportunities.”

Mike Cantlay, SNH Chair, said: “The close links between nature and culture in the Highlands & Islands are a huge draw for tourists across the globe, and the economic benefits are a vital way of maintaining our rural populations, jobs and skills.

“Parts of the Highlands & Islands are well served, but we know there are even more out there with potential to bring benefits to rural communities in the coming years. We are hugely excited to find out more about projects that can make a crucial difference to visitor experience, as well as local quality of life.”

The funding comes through the Scottish Government’s European Regional Development Fund programme, with match funding from other sources bringing overall investment to more than £7m.  

Throughout the rest of 2018, SNH will be promoting the Fund at events across the Highlands & Islands and meeting with prospective applicants to discuss potential projects. 

The funding round will open in early January 2019 and close late April 2019.   Decisions on the successful projects will be announced in early summer 2019.

Further details about the Fund can be found on the SNH website –or by emailing

Contact information

SNH Media

Notes to editors

The new Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund is part of the next phase of the Scottish Government’s European Regional Development Fund programme, which runs through to 2023.  SNH is also managing another element of the programme – the Green Infrastructure Fund.

The Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund covers the ‘Highlands & Islands” area which for this purpose is defined as the local authority areas of Highland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll, Moray and part of North Ayrshire (Arran). 

Applicants can come from the public, voluntary or third sectors (private businesses are not able to apply for ERDF). 

SNH is leading delivery of the Fund, but has established an advisory Board to guide the process and help make decisions on which projects should be funded.  This includes representatives from VisitScotland, HIE, Historic Environment Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig. 

ERDF funding is awarded to support investment in innovation, businesses, skills and employment and create jobs.  The money for the Fund is protected by the guarantees given by the UK and Scottish Governments to maintain EU funding programmes, even in the event of a hard Brexit. For more information on European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in Scotland, visit the Scottish Government’s ESIF website and Twitter page.

There is separate Scottish Government funding for other aspects of tourism provision in the Highlands & Islands – such as Visitscotland’s recently introduced Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which is helping to improve infrastructure (parking, camping, toilets etc.) at sites where the current provision is insufficient for the number of visitors.

Scottish Natural Heritage is Scotland's nature agency. We work to improve our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. So that all nature in Scotland - our key habitats and landscapes, all our green space and our native species - is maintained, enhanced and brings us benefits. It is the job of all of us to achieve a balance in the sensitive management of our natural world in order to maintain and enhance biodiversity. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

'S e Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Tha sinn ag obair airson ar n-àrainneachd nàdarra ann an Alba a thoirt am feabhas agus a h-uile duine a bhrosnachadh gus barrachd cùraim a ghabhail dhi. Gus am bi an nàdar air fad ann an Alba – ar prìomh àrainnean is chruthan-tìre, ar n-àiteachan uaine gu lèir is ar gnèithean dùthchasach - air an gleidheadh, air an leasachadh 's a' toirt bhuannachdan dhuinn. 'S e an dleastanas a th' oirnn uile co-chothrom ann an stiùireadh faiceallach ar saoghail nàdarra a ruighinn airson bith-iomadachd a ghleidheadh 's a leasachadh. Airson an tuilleadh fios, tadhail air an làraich-lìn againn aig no lean air Twitter sinn aig