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The craw Stane, a pictish standing stone with pictish symbols on it, near Rhynie, Aberdeenshire. ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund: How to apply

Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund 2019 is now closed for applications.
Funding decisions will be announced in September.


refurbished visitor centre at Beinn Eighe NNR

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.

Scottish Natural Heritage awards NCHFunds in compliance with state aid rules.  If a project will constitute State Aid it will be managed as a Block exemption (see State Aid Block Exemptions) and will be expected to fully comply with General Block Exemption Regulations.

Information for applicants

Who could apply?

Applicants could come from the public, voluntary or third sectors (private businesses are not able to apply for European Regional Development Fund).  Applicants had to be able to demonstrate that they have the capacity to meet the stringent financial, audit and record keeping requirements required by the EU.

How to Apply?

The funding round opened on Monday 14 January and closed on 22 April 2019. 

Decisions on the successful projects will be announced in September 2019.

Applicants had to consider the following guidance documents:

  • Audit and Compliance guidance (This guidance document sets out to communicate the standards set out within EU Regulations that apply to the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund and how the Lead Partner and grantees will comply with these articles.
  • Communications Toolkit (which aims to help applicants inform and engage with stakeholders about the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund. Whoever you’re talking to, the guidance within this will keep your communications about Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund relevant, clear and consistent).
  • Financial Annex 2019 (designed to support the financial projections of your proposed project, and help you complete this aspect of your application form)

How we can help?

The project team are happy to give advice to organisations interested in the Fund - email us at [email protected].

When can I find out more, or speak to a funding officer?

In the autumn we held a series of information events and met with prospective applicants throughout the Highlands and Islands - if you were unable to attend the presentation is available to download, alternatively you can view the presentation on YouTube.

If you have questions relating to the application process please email us at [email protected] to arrange to speak to a funding officer.

Our Approach to Project Assessment

Now the applications have been received, they will be screened for eligibility and completeness and then assessed for quality. We will assess projects against our assessment criteria, the Fund’s outcomes and value for money. We will be looking for a balance of outcomes, as well as evidence of the additional value that the project will deliver, that all other possible funding options have been explored that the money is needed (i.e. the project cannot proceed without NCHF) and that there is a clear framework for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on results.

The results of the assessment are then considered by our Performance Management Board who recommends the projects which should receive funding, as well as confirming that due process has been followed. The Board have been selected based on their expertise and experience in relevant subject areas, and include several members from other organisations. At present these include Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Historic Environment Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Visit Scotland, Scottish Government, Directorate for Culture,Tourism and Major Events.

The selection process ends with approval and sign off of the Performance Management Board recommendations by the SNH CEO.

Once a project is approved, our Project and Funding Officer will maintain on-going contact with grantees, checking they are fulfilling audit requirements, publicising the work and ultimately evaluating the outputs and results of the project.

View our NCHF Assessment and Selection process diagram.

Gaining advice and avoiding conflict of interest

To maintain separation of roles and to avoid any conflict of interest, your lead contact will not be involved in the assessment of your application. While their advice will give your project a better chance of success, receiving their support or encouragement does not guarantee your project will be funded because our funds are competitive and projects are subject to our independent assessment and scoring process.

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