PUBLIC, voluntary and third sector organisations on Arran and Cumbrae will be able to apply for funding from a new multi-million pound fund to promote the outstanding scenery, wildlife and culture of the Highlands and Islands.

The £5 million Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, which is led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), will invest in projects that benefit the Highlands and Islands by improving the experience of visitors who come to discover and explore the region’s nature and culture.

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. The fund will invest in around 10 major new projects.

In addition to promoting the nature and culture of the area, this investment aims to create and support jobs. Job creation is an important measure of success for the fund and so all projects are encouraged to demonstrate benefits such as creating and sustaining employment, businesses and services in the local community. However, the fund is not suitable for applications from the private sector, individuals, commercial enterprise, or organisations run entirely by volunteers.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “Tourism is an important aspect of the Highlands and Islands economy, with many communities dependent on visitors attracted by its beautiful landscapes, wildlife, heritage and culture.

“I am pleased to see SNH launch this fund and encourage relevant applicants from the area to come forward and apply. The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund will target resources to bring additional economic and social benefits.”

Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, added: “I welcome this significant investment, from which the isles of Arran and Cumbrae have an oppor tunity to benefit. “Projects must seeking an European Regional Development Fund grant of a minimum of £250,000 with a total eligible project cost of £360,000 or more, so this offers an enormous potential.

“SNH has already met with over 100 prospective applicants at events across the Highlands and Islands to discuss their project ideas, but they are looking for more to come forward.

“The funding round closes on April 22, so I would encourage public, voluntary and third sector organisations to apply.”

To apply, visit https://www. d v i ce/fun din g / natural-and-cultural-heritage-fund-nchf