Millions of pounds of new funding is to be made available from today to help secure the future of some of the most precious assets in the Highlands and Islands.
Ten projects protecting and promoting the area’s natural and cultural treasures will get a share of a £5 million fund.
The new cash pot, which will be open for applications until April, has been created by the Scottish Government to help boost tourism, create jobs, and maintain population numbers in rural areas.
Key priorities will including improving infrastructure and expanding facilities for visitors at some of the most popular destinations, as well as developing new products to promote the area.
Grants of at least £250,000 will be available to projects “demonstrating sensitive management and safeguarding of assets for future generations.”
The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund will be targeted at the more rural parts of the Highlands and Islands and is aimed at supporting projects due to run over the next three years. The government has ringfenced the money, which its agency Scottish Natural Heritage will be in charge of, from the European Regional Development Fund.
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Tourism is an important aspect of the Highlands and Islands economy, with many communities dependent on visitors who are attracted to the region by its beautiful landscapes, wildlife, heritage and culture.
“I’m pleased to see Scottish Natural Heritage launch this fund and encourage relevant applicants from the area to come forward and apply.
“The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund will target resources accordingly to more remote and rural parts of the region, supporting much needed jobs and bringing additional economic and social benefits.”
SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska, said: “This new fund presents fantastic opportunities to show how investing in the environment and culture of the Highlands and Islands can bring significant economic benefits for rural communities.
“We’ve already met with over 100 prospective applicants at events across the region to discuss their ideas.
“We’re very much looking forward to hearing even more and helping to make them happen, giving visitors an even better experience and seeing the rewards for communities in the coming years.”