New £5 million fund for Highlands & Islands tourism

Hannah Downey

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 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 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. 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. 

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

There will also be a number of information sessions held in various locations where you will have the opportunity to ask the structural funds project officers any questions you may have about the new fund. You can find the details of these sessions on our website here.