finance

£5.8 million funding boost for Scotland’s visitor hotspots



More than £5.8m in recovery funding from the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) is to be spent on improving infrastructure and creating jobs at a number of Scotland’s popular visitor destinations and nature hotspots.

STERG is supporting tourism recovery through coronavirus crisis with three separate funds, with work being carried out by VisitScotland, NatureScot and a number of other partners across the country.

This includes the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) with the announcement of over £2.4m funding for 10 sites across Scotland; NatureScot’s £3.1m Green Recovery Better Places Fund for 120 projects to improve busy nature destinations across the country; and the pilot Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund, which supports a further 10 applications totalling almost £307,000.

Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the RTIF was created to improve the quality of the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland that have faced pressure on their infrastructure due to this increase in visitor numbers.

The latest applications from local authorities and national park authorities include Point of Ness in Orkney; Tobermory in Argyll and Bute; the Pentland Hills Regional Park near Edinburgh; Loch Ness; and Aden in Aberdeenshire – and will see improvements to car, coach and camper van parking and accessible spaces, toilet provision and chemical waste disposal points, footpaths and electric vehicle charging points.

The pilot Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund will support development plans created by councils in Orkney, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dumfries and Galloway, Perth and Kinross, East Lothian, City of Edinburgh and the Highlands – as well as the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

NatureScot’s Green Recovery Better Places Fund is helping communities to extend car parks, improve paths and accessibility, add more bins, toilets and signage, and to promote responsible behaviour in Scotland’s outdoors.

The £3.1m fund has created more than 60 new jobs, including 47 new seasonal ranger posts to help manage sites and give visitors the best possible outdoors experience. Projects at 35 locations are already complete and a further 92 projects are currently underway preparing for the coming season.

NatureScot launched its fund in response to the unprecedented numbers of visitors to Scotland’s countryside, coasts and local green spaces following the initial easing of lockdown last summer.

While this rush to enjoy Scotland’s outdoors highlighted the benefits for visitors, local communities and businesses, it also presented several challenges, such as littering, parking issues, wildfires, toileting and general damage to nature.

NatureScot has spread the investment throughout Scotland, taking in seven islands – including Skye, Barra and Islay – and across seven local authorities, including the increasingly popular North Coast 500, East Lothian’s accessible coasts and the lowland landscapes of Dumfries & Galloway.

NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Investing in nature, including in visitor management, is a key part of a green recovery: providing jobs, addressing nature loss and tackling climate change.

“Our Better Places Green Recovery Fund is improving visitor services and infrastructure, so that we can all access and enjoy nature easily and safely.”

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “As many people choose to staycation this year, we are supporting our rural communities as much as possible to cope with the increased numbers looking to enjoy Scotland’s beautiful countryside.

“I’m delighted to see that through our funding and work with NatureScot and VisitScotland, as well as local communities across the country, we can ensure that we can welcome more visitors to our unique natural environment without damaging what makes it so special.

“Scotland has world-leading legislation giving people rights to access our countryside but it’s important that these are exercised responsibly and with respect for others, for wildlife and for the land itself. Investing in visitor management and supporting our rural communities is a crucial part of sustainable tourism growth.”

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “The STERG tourism recovery funding is crucial in helping improve vital infrastructure and the overall visitor experience as part of responsible tourism work being undertaken by VisitScotland, NatureScot and our partners across the country.

“Over the last three years, the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund has played an important role in improving the visitor experience, be it car parking, toilets or footpaths, as we want people to have a must visit-must return experience, so I am delighted to see another 11 projects receiving funding.”

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