Published: August 2022
Nature Restoration Fund - Transforming Nature
Guidance for applicants
About the Nature Restoration Fund - Transforming Nature
The Nature Restoration Fund is a Scottish Government commitment to invest at least £65 million in multi-year funding to benefit nature across the whole country. Since its launch in 2021, we have started over 100 projects, putting Scotland’s species, habitats and seas back on the road to recovery.
The strategic goal of the Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) is to catalyse action at a scale to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity on land and sea.
In this funding round we are inviting ambitious, transformative projects of single or multi-year duration and with a funding requirement in excess of £250,000. Development phase funding may be applied for separately. All projects must be completed by 31 March 2026.
The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy will be instrumental in defining clear priorities for NRF, determining the optimum allocation of resources and the impact we want projects to deliver. The Strategy will be finalised in autumn 2022, with 2022/23 a bridging year for NRF, focusing on broad priority themes, with a more direct focus anticipated on the priorities outlined in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, once launched.
The priority themes for this round are:
- Habitat and species restoration: Management for enhancement and connectivity
- Freshwater restoration, including restoration of natural flows in rural catchments
- Coastal and marine initiatives which promote restoration, recovery, enhancement or resilience
- Control of invasive non-native species (INNS) impacting on nature
- Urban: Enhancing and connecting nature across, and between, towns and cities.
NRF will only support habitats, species and priorities as set out in the accompanying ‘Priorities for Action’ document on our website. You should use this document to help develop detailed proposals.
Key Selection Criteria
The priority themes will be reviewed following the publication of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy in autumn 2022. Until then, the primary selection criteria is the proposed benefit to nature restoration.
In addition, in order to ensure maximum impact from investment, priority will be given to projects which:
- Bring together strong partnerships
- Leverage funding in excess of the NRF minimum requirement from other financial partners
- Demonstrate clear additionality to existing and already committed actions
- Have a sustainable vision and a clear exit strategy which does not require further NRF funding.
All project proposals should reference how the project will contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The decision making panel will seek to achieve a spread of projects across the five priority themes, and across Scotland.
Examples of projects that could be funded include:
Habitats and species
- Enhancing habitat linkages and habitat creation that increases connectivity at landscape scale1, for example rewilding previously farmed land
- Strategic habitat creation to enhance green networks
- Dune management to enhance resilience to climate change impacts or enhance biodiversity, such as through grazing or trampling control or removal of invasive species
1Landscape scale projects take place across a range of locations and may involve multiple stakeholders. Such projects aim to connect and expand natural and semi natural habitats to improve and increase biodiversity.
- Natural flood management solutions, such as river based engineering works that reconnect rivers to rural floodplains and increase riparian habitat diversity
- Groundworks which create new habitat such as wetlands, by re-meandering/re-profiling/ de-culverting stretches of previously straightened rural rivers/streams
- In–stream or river works such as installing woody debris and banking to increase habitats and reduce erosion, removing barriers to fish passage and other man made obstacles that negatively impact habitats and flood events
Coastal and marine
- Infrastructure that helps to support longer-term restoration efforts for Priority Marine Features
- Changes to existing practices/approaches that help realise the benefits of, and make a positive contribution towards, the conservation objectives for Marine Protected Areas
Invasive, non-native species
- Deliver a programme of INNS control across multiple landowners that includes training of volunteers in treatment and control, enabling a long term programme of volunteer maintenance to be established beyond the life of the NRF project
- Creation of wildlife corridors through urban spaces, especially where they create connectivity with existing urban wild spaces
- Restoration of urban wild spaces which have not previously been managed for biodiversity.
Projects within the boundaries of National Parks must comply with the relevant National Park plan:
Please read all of the following carefully before you start.
Who is eligible to apply?
Applications are invited from
1. Constituted organisations
a) Registered charities and trusts
b) Constituted community groups
2. Private individuals and companies - where public benefit will be demonstrated
3. Partnerships and organisations working collaboratively with others.
Where applications are received from partnerships or organisations working collaboratively, a lead applicant must be identified. If successful, the lead applicant will be required to accept the Terms and Conditions of the Funding Offer, provide overall project updates and claim funds on behalf of all project partners. We will ask you to tell us how the project will be managed in your project proposals.
Public Bodies cannot be the principal beneficiary of a grant from NRF but can be a coordinator of, or funding contributor to, a wider partnership bid (where the match funding eligibility criteria are met). Any bids with public body partners will be scrutinised to ensure funding is delivering activities that would not be expected to be undertaken by public bodies as part of their core functions, or as would be expected in delivering their biodiversity duties.
NRF and other Grant Schemes
NRF will not fund projects, or parts of projects, that are eligible for the following grant programmes. This includes projects that are eligible for any of the following, but have been unsuccessful in securing funds:
Scotland’s Rural Development Programme (SRDP):
- Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS)
- Projects which involve partnership, collaborative or innovative new approaches may be too complex for AECS and so NRF may fund these. However NRF is not supportive of projects which are limited to simply grouping together individual land holdings, as these can be supported by AECS.
- Hedgerows may, on occasion, be funded by NRF where not AECS eligible, for example where much wider than AECS hedgerow standard. Simple hedges will only be funded up to AECS rates.
- NRF may fund INNS projects where AECS is not suitable, given the holistic, catchment coordinated approach required for effective INNS removal.
- For further advice on AECS, including eligibility, you can contact the duty officer for your area or use the Farm Advisory Service for 30 minutes of free advice 0300 323 0161, email: [email protected]
- Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS):
- This is anticipated to be available in its current, or similar, format for the foreseeable future and NRF will therefore not fund tree planting schemes, or any other woodland improvement or management activities for which FGS funding is available.
- NRF may consider tree planting or other woodland improvement elements of wider projects, such as for completion of INNS eradication, where your project does not meet the eligibility criteria of FGS and where this is confirmed by Scottish Forestry.
- NRF projects which seek to enable natural regeneration, for example via site manipulation or enclosures, should consider any longer term plans for securing FGS funds and ensure that FGS eligibility following successful NRF funding is considered from the outset.
- Before expressing your interest in applying to NRF, you are encouraged to discuss your project with your local Woodland Officer. Contact details can be found via Scottish Forestry - contact.
- NRF will fund projects which would be otherwise eligible for SMEEF where the grant requested is in excess of the upper funding limit for SMEEF.
Invasive Non-Native Species
INNS projects must deliver all three of the following:
- Bring entire populations of INNS under control
- Demonstrate coordination and a collaborative approach across larger geographic/multiple ownership units
- Be sustainable beyond the funding period (for example, by eradicating populations or establishing costed sustainable control plans covering a 10-year maintenance period).
Projects which include INNS control as one element of a wider project in single land ownership will only be eligible if the INNS control is a minor part of the project outcomes.
Fencing, Browsing Control and Deer Culling
Fencing for browsing control will not be funded where deer management measures, such as an active Deer Management Plan, are not already in place.
- NRF will normally pay for fencing costs (livestock or deer) up to and equal to AECS fencing rates only. Applications with fencing costs at higher rates, for example where a site is extremely remote or challenging to work on, will be considered with a robust justification and following discussion with the funding officer.
- Strategic deer fences that bring the achievement of multiple biodiversity benefits at scale will be a higher priority.
- Deer fencing where new woodland establishment needs protection to allow it to establish may be supported at the discretion of the decision making panel. Support will usually only be for larger enclosures and be considered a medium priority.
- Deer fencing of small (single or multiple) or narrow enclosures, such as riparian ribbon planting, will be a lower priority in the absence of justifiable deer management and/or wider catchment measures.
- Deer culling will only be supported where it is the most effective means of achieving the desired habitat outcomes, and only if in combination with accompanying measures which support the ongoing maintenance of the habitat outcomes.
- Fencing in capercaillie core areas (Cairngorms) will need to be carefully justified and supported at the discretion of the decision making panel.
- Fencing to protect enclosures of more mature trees will not normally be funded, unless biodiversity benefits beyond those achieved through deer management can be demonstrated.
- Predator fencing will not be funded.
Livestock and Grazing
- The purchase of livestock will not be funded.
- The use of GPS collars on livestock to manage grazing may be supported in some circumstances. You should contact [email protected] to discuss your project before submitting an Expression of Interest.
What types of work will not be funded?
The primary focus of this fund is to increase the biodiversity value of land and sea with a focus on nature-based solutions to address the impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change.
NRF will not fund the following types of projects:
- Ongoing maintenance of any site or the implementation of previously agreed (land/site) management plan actions.
- Activities which are a condition of planning or statutory obligations.
- Replacement of existing infrastructure where there is no biodiversity enhancement.
- Projects that do not seek to transform land/sites to an improved, sustainable, nature-rich state.
- Organisational and staff capacity building (although project-specific training costs are eligible).
- Development of management or strategic plans.
- Projects primarily focused on people and engagement outcomes.
- Surveys, monitoring, data analysis or research where collation of data is the primary purpose (surveys as part of project monitoring and evaluation are eligible).
- Delivery of partner organisation and stakeholder statutory obligations for biodiversity, habitats and species. (Projects on land/sites owned by statutory agencies such as NatureScot and Forestry and Land Scotland can be funded, provided the above is adhered to, the statutory agency is not the lead applicant and that public benefit is delivered.)
- Annual management payments to farmers.
- Single use plastics, for example for tree protection. Biodegradable or re-usable materials should be sourced. In exceptional circumstances, where there is no suitable alternative (such as in flood prone locations) plastic protection may be given approval, provided it is removed and reused or recycled afterwards.
- Contingency costs.
- Staff time to report on progress and claim NRF funds.
Funding award level and match funding
We invite applications that make an NRF funding request in excess of £250,000, for projects which will be completed and fully claimed for, on or before 31st March 2026.
- All applications will be required to confirm cash and/or in-kind contributions to the project. There is a maximum NRF intervention rate of 90% of project costs.
- Projects which are able to bring significantly more than 10% match funding to their application will be preferred.
- However, the NRF will, at its discretion, cover up to 100% of cash costs for projects that will make a significant contribution to the Priorities for Action and can demonstrate a minimum of 10% in-kind support.
Cash and in-kind contributions to projects cannot be matched from the following funding programmes:
- Peatland Action
- Green Infrastructure Funds
- Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund
- Nature Restoration Fund:
- Helping Nature rounds
- Transforming Nature rounds (development phase)
- Edinburgh Process Fund
- Biodiversity Challenge Fund
- Scottish Marine Environmental Enhancement Fund (SMEEF)
- Any other funds and grants administered by NatureScot.
While funds cannot be matched from these sources, we recognise that making connections to projects funded by them, and working in catchments/sites alongside them, may facilitate enhanced outcomes, and encourage this.
- Activity completed prior to the grant offer being issued and accepted (such as preparatory work, surveys, consultations) cannot be used for match or in-kind funding.
Activity which is ineligible for NRF funding cannot be used as in-kind or match funds. This includes:
- Value of land on which projects are taking place
- Discounted staff and/or consultancy fees
- Any capital or resource activity previously funded by any NatureScot grant programme.
What costs can be funded?
Please provide as much budgetary detail as possible in your application, including how budget lines have been calculated eg hourly rates, costs per item, split out irrecoverable VAT and detail full cost recovery methodology.
Costs that can be funded:
- Contractor costs, for example to undertake detailed design or groundworks, or to undertake project evaluation eg costs for measuring success and evaluating the project.
- Capital equipment, resources and materials (e.g. culverts, bridges, sluice, fencing, plants) that will deliver on the ground nature restoration as part of the overall project.
- Costs associated with training and skills development such as training providers, and PPE.
- Staff costs inclusive of salary, National Insurance and Employer Pension Contributions.
- Full cost recovery where there are staff costs, organisational and overhead costs; to cover office accommodation, equipment and running costs and wider staff support (e.g. finance, IT). The National Lottery Community Fund provides an excellent guide to calculating full cost recovery, which we recommend you consult if you intend to apply for full cost recovery. You will need to clearly explain how you have calculated full cost recovery in your application.
- Travel and subsistence to cover staff and any volunteers supporting project activity for organisations. A copy of your Travel and Subsistence policy will be required in support.
- Irrecoverable VAT relating to project costs and activities.
- Lead applicant costs: Staff time and on-costs where applications are received from a partnership or organisations working collaboratively (but not costs associated with establishing any additional partnership governance). Any additional levy/management fee will be ineligible.
- Feasibility studies – fundable only at development phase.
Inflation and contingency costs: We recognise that inflation may make it challenging to accurately budget for projects running for up to 3.5 years. Costs presented should be, in order of preference:
- Based on quotes from any contractors you will use (if you already have these)
- Based on previous experience in similar projects
- Your best guesstimate, with explanation of how you reached the figure.
NRF cannot fund contingency costs, but if agreed project costs rise due to inflation during the delivery of your project, NRF may consider increasing the value of grant awarded upon receipt of evidence.
Cash or in-kind contributions to cover the reporting of NRF activity (as distinct from undertaking and completing evaluation reports) and the claiming of NRF must be confirmed within each application. These are not eligible NRF project management costs but can be included as a proportionate element within the minimum 10% match funding that is required.
All successful applications will be required to follow NatureScot’s procurement policy. You should not appoint contractors and/or similar externally sourced services until your offer has been made and accepted, and when you do, you must do so in alignment with NatureScot’s procurement policy. You should familiarise yourself with this prior to applying as it may impact on how you plan your project, including timelines.
Landowner permission and maintenance compliance period
All successful NRF projects are required to confirm landowner permission for the works to take place and permission for any subsequent maintenance over a period of 10 years - the NRF maintenance compliance period. These permissions are confirmed via a signed Landowner Declaration form; available on our website.
- Where an application is received directly from a landowner, the separate Landowner Declaration form is not required.
- Where applications are received from organisations not in ownership of the land where action will take place, signed Landowner Declarations must be received by NatureScot before a Funding Offer will be issued. If a signed Landowner Declaration form is not received within the timeframe specified when we inform you of our intent to support your project, NatureScot will withdraw our in-principle support and no offer of funding will be made.
- Where an applicant leases the land where action will take place:
- If the lease agreement extends beyond the 10 year compliance period, the applicant can sign the Landowner Declaration provided there are no break clauses that can be implemented during the 10 year maintenance compliance period.
- If there are break clauses in the lease agreement that could be implemented within the 10 year maintenance compliance period, irrespective of how long the lease lasts, the landowner will be required to sign the Landowner Declaration as the applicant is unable to give the 10 year maintenance compliance commitment that is required.
- At assessment it will be assumed that the landowner(s) is aware of the proposed actions within your application and that appropriate consultation about your proposal has already taken place.
- We will inform you of any additional Special Conditions that may require you to liaise with the landowner(s) prior to issuing our formal Funding Offer.
Maintenance compliance period
- NatureScot will not fund the 10-year maintenance period and associated activity and it cannot be used as an in-kind contribution to project costs either.
- All sites must be maintained in the condition created with NRF funds to enable the longer term benefits to be realised (for example repairs to fencing, replacement of failed plantings).
- In the event that a site is sold, the NRF maintenance obligations must be included within the sale contract.
- The maintenance compliance obligations will be included within the Terms and Conditions of the Funding Offer issued and are binding on acceptance of the offer.
Standard Terms and Conditions of Funding are available to view on our website.
Other Permissions and Consents
We will ask you in the application form what permissions and consents are required to enable you to implement your project, including a likely timescale for both applying and securing them. If your application is successful, all relevant permissions must be confirmed before work commences. This includes Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) decisions, felling permissions, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) licences, marine licences, deer management agreements, Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) consents, Historic Environment Scotland, and any other permissions relating to designated sites or land ownership, where appropriate.
Permissions must be sought as soon as possible after a Funding Offer has been issued, with the expectation these will be secured within a specified timeframe according to the Funding Offer date. We understand that some permissions may take longer, for example a SEPA Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) licence. You should explain in the application form what discussions have occurred regarding permissions and with who.
If your project requires planning permission, we recognise this can take some time. You should detail what discussions you have had with the planning authority in your application form, including any feedback and indications of timescale, and ensure that the implications of a delayed decision and your ability to deliver the project by the intended end date stated in your application are fully addressed within the risk section of the application form.
NatureScot will offer funding that is conditional on permissions being secured by a set date. If that timeframe is not achieved, you should expect that we will withdraw our offer of funding.
How to apply
You do not have to have applied for, or secured, development phase funding from NRF to apply for Transforming Nature funding; you may apply directly for Transforming Nature funding. However, if you wish to apply for development phase funding first, please see the separate guidance for development phase applications.
Please start by reading the NRF Outcomes and Eligibility, How to Apply and Contacts and Resources pages on our website. Please then download a Transforming Nature Expression of Interest form from the website and submit it to [email protected] You may submit more than one application where potential projects are entirely unrelated.
If you are not applying for a development phase grant, or have not already received a development phase grant:
An Expression of Interest form can be submitted at any point but must be received no later than noon on Friday 2 September 2022.
It is likely that a Funding Officer or topic specialist within NatureScot will be in touch with you about your Expression of Interest during the review period. If we assess that your proposed project could meet the NRF priorities, we will send you a Transforming Nature application form, with a unique project reference number, to complete. This will only be made available to those who are offered the opportunity to submit a full Transforming Nature application. We will not accept any applications without a project reference number. The opportunity to complete a full application does not guarantee that it will be successful.
If you have already received a development phase grant:
You do not have to submit an Expression of Interest. Please contact [email protected] to request an application form.
For all projects:
We expect all applications to be accompanied by two distinct project plans which detail:
- Project implementation and management, including evaluation and monitoring during project delivery; and
- Monitoring and maintenance for the period immediately post project delivery. (Prior to issuing a grant offer, we also expect a separate monitoring and maintenance plan to be produced, covering the 10 year post grant maintenance period, see below.)
Following assessment of your application, we will inform you of the outcome. For successful projects, you will need to confirm the following details before we will make any funding offer:
- cash and in-kind contributions
- landowner agreements
- maintenance plans which cover the 10 year post grant compliance period.
For the current round:
Transforming Nature fund launched - 9 August 2022
Final date for Expressions of Interest - Noon 2 September 2022
Closing date for applications - Noon 7 October 2022
Applicants informed of decisions - W/b 21 November 2022
There will be further rounds of both Helping Nature (grants under £250,000) and Transforming Nature (grants in excess of £250,000). The next application call for the Helping Nature stream is expected to be in late autumn 2022. The next application call for the Transforming Nature stream is expected to be in spring 2023. Projects which complete a development phase can submit a Transforming Nature application as soon as it is ready and in advance of that date.
You will be required to acknowledge Nature Restoration Fund support as set out in the guidance How to acknowledge our support for your project on our website. NatureScot will issue press statements on projects awarded funding.