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Francesca Osowska (SNH CEO) opening Delivery of Public Good - Land use conference. ©SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or

Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund: Outcomes and eligibility

refurbished visitor centre at Beinn Eighe NNR


The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund supports new opportunities to promote the outstanding scenery, wildlife and culture of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in ways which support inclusive and sustainable economic growth. It will help to retain jobs and sustain populations and services in rural communities.

The NCHF map of the Highlands and Islands identifies the areas covered by the fund.

This Challenge Fund of £5million of ERDF money is now available through a single competitive funding round which opened on 14 January and will close on 22 April 2019. We’re looking to use this money to support around 10 major projects to be delivered by 2022. Projects must be seeking an ERDF grant of a minimum of £250k. The total eligible project costs must be a minimum of £360k.  Projects will only be supported if they demonstrate sensitive management and safeguarding of those heritage assets for future generations.

This Fund will support:

•  Interpretive media to promote natural and cultural heritage assets consistent with sensitive management and sustainable use
•  Infrastructure investment to expand the provision of tourist facilities
•  Improved accessibility, interpretation and quality of visitor experiences
•  New products or services based on the region's natural and cultural resources, particularly for the tourism sector.

The Fund is one of the Strategic Interventions (SI) in the 2014–2020 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme.  The aim of the ERDF is to invest in communities to help them to grow economic activity and employment.  The Fund can contribute up to 70% of project costs and will deliver a total value of £7,126,650 of investment throughout the course of the programme, including the match funding which applicants are required to find.

For general background information on European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in Scotland, visit the Scottish Government's ESIF website and Scot Gov ESIF Twitter page

Outcomes of the project

Successful projects will contribute to the following outcomes.  To be eligible, projects must primarily relate to the natural and cultural heritage assets of the Highlands and Islands and will be assessed against how well they deliver on the following outcomes. Projects are not required to deliver on every outcome, but are more likely to be successful in funding if they deliver on two or more.

  • Outcome 1 - Heritage assets of the transition region are more accessible and better promoted
  • Outcome 2 - The quality of visitor experience to the heritage assets is enhanced
  • Outcome 3 - New products, services and jobs based on heritage assets are created
  • Outcome 4 - There is coordinated promotion and interpretation of heritage assets across the region.

Themes of the project

The ERDF 2014-2020 programme has Horizontal Themes which cut across all the activity it funds. Challenge Fund projects will be assessed against the principles of the Horizontal Themes. There will be monitoring during and after delivery so projects must build these themes into their applications.

  • Horizontal Theme 1 – Sustainable Development
  • Horizontal Theme 2 – Equal Opportunities and non-discrimination
  • Horizontal Theme 3 – Equality between men and women
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