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‘I would walk 5,000 miles…’

Perthshire man’s epic coast-to-coast hike across Canada to help rewild the Highlands

In 1867, legendary Scots naturalist John Muir completed a famous 1,000-mile journey on foot across North America from Kentucky to the Gulf Coast. More than a century and a half later, 32-year-old musician Michael Yellowlees, from Dunkeld in Perthshire, is on course to emulate that famous feat five times over – by walking across Canada from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the east coast of Newfoundland on the edge of the North Atlantic.

The idea for the trek – which is raising funds for Highlands-based rewilding charity Trees for Life – germinated three years ago while Michael was walking in the Scottish Highlands.

“It is a beautiful landscape but with a strong sense of sadness because of the absence of woodland, wildlife and people,” Michael recalls.

“So I decided then to walk across the great wildernesses of Canada to raise funds for Trees for Life and its work to restore Scotland’s Caledonian Forest, at a time when the world is on high alert over climate chaos and biodiversity loss.”

After working for a spell in Vancouver, looking after sled dogs to help fund his venture, Michael set off in March for the great trek eastwards – a solitary figure in a kilt, with his guitar and a few other belongings in a handcart, and an Alaskan husky called Luna by his side.

Along the way he has experienced adventures aplenty. He has encountered black bears and listened to the howling of wolves.

When following a waterway section of the Great Canada Trail by canoe, Luna jumped out and became lost in the dense wilderness in an area of Northern Ontario. “I was totally distraught. For months, we had been best friends and had looked after one another,” said Michael.

Aided by local volunteers, Michael spent a week searching in vain for his lost companion. “After seven days and seven nights, just as I was giving up all hope, Luna appeared like an apparition, strolling casually back as though nothing had happened – although she had lost some weight.”

If that week was the lowest point of the journey there have been plenty of highs – not least the reception from the Canadian public.

“The warmth of the people has been amazing. In every town and village people have offered me food, shelter and donations. So much kindness. I’ve been accompanied into towns and cities by marching pipe bands and interviewed by newspapers, radio and TV,” said Michael.

Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life, said: “We have been following Michael’s journey across Canada with awe and admiration. Restoring native habitats and wildlife to the Scottish Highlands is a big task that no one can do alone. But Michael’s extraordinary trek is proof of the power of the individual to make a difference.”

A family friend back in Perthshire, Bob Davidson, said: “It’s epic what he’s doing. I’ve known Michael since he was 10 years old. This is not a stroll in the park, but an 8,000-kilometre yomp at an incredible pace with Luna. He’s just an amazing guy, always has been and always will be. Hats off to him.”

Michael – a former pupil of Breadalbane Academy – is currently in Quebec, after trekking across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. He expects to arrive at his final destination – the headland of Cape Spear in Newfoundland – in early November.

Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. Its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.

The charity recently announced the launch of Affric Highlands – a 30-year landscape-scale rewilding initiative to restore nature across an area of over 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness across the central Highlands to Kintail in the west, and encompassing Glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel. The community-driven venture aims to tackle the nature and climate emergencies, and create social and economic opportunities in the region.

To support Michael and Luna’s fundraising on their rewilding journey, please visit


Michael Yellowlees and Luna on their epic rewilding journey across Canada.

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Our Isles and Oceans Summer 2021 Short Film

Our Isles and Oceans is a platform for youth development and opportunity and we create life-changing moments and experiences for all involved.

For more information contact GRM Marketing here.

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First Minister Update COVID-19 28th September 2021


The First Minister updated Parliament today on the introduction of the COVID certification scheme in Scotland as well as a new £25 million fund that is being made available to help improve ventilation in business premises:…/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine…/

Further guidance has been published on the certification scheme. Anyone over the age of 18, who wants to go to a large event or to a late night venue will be required to provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated, or evidence that they are exempt. To facilitate this, the NHS Covid Status app will go live on Thursday.

The legal obligation comes into force at 5am on Friday this week. However, a grace period until 18 October will be in place, before any business could face enforcement action for non-compliance. This will allow businesses to test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme.
Further information is available here:…/vaccine-certification…/

The First Minister also gave details of a £25 million package being made available to SMEs to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission. Grants will target a wide range of high risk settings where people come into close proximity such as restaurants, bars and gyms:…/improving-ventilation-to-tackle…/

Changes to the rules on international travel will take effect from 4 October. This means that the blanket requirement for pre-departure tests for people travelling into Scotland will be removed. People who have been fully vaccinated – or who are under 18 – will no longer need to provide a pre-departure test result if they are coming from countries not on the red list. Further details are available here:…/international-travel-testing…/

The First Minister’s full speech is available here:…/coronavirus-covid-19-update…/

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30-year project joins prestigious European group of awe-inspiring rewilding areas

An ambitious 30-year landscape-scale rewilding initiative to link up a majestic sweep of the Scottish Highlands as one vast nature recovery area connecting Loch Ness to Scotland’s west coast has been launched by charity Trees for Life, and joins a select group of prestigious European rewilding areas.

The Affric Highlands initiative follows three years of consultation between Rewilding Europe, Trees for Life, and other local partners and stakeholders.

It will restore nature across a network of landholdings potentially covering an area of over 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness across the central Highlands to Kintail in the west, and encompassing Glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel.

Trees for Life has brought together a broad coalition of landowners, communities and others to boost habitat connectivity, species diversity, and social and economic opportunities in the region, while tackling climate breakdown.

With community involvement and partnership working central to the project, a diverse group of 20 landowners covering at least 25% of the total area and six organisations are already on board, with hopes that more will join. Work is underway to further involve local people, with practical action to connect areas of rewilding land due to begin in 2023.

During a ceremony attended by partners and stakeholders at Glenurquhart Public Hall in Drumnadrochit by Loch Ness on 23 September, Affric Highlands was officially welcomed by Rewilding Europe as the ninth member of its network of large pioneering rewilding areas – taking the organisation one step closer to its ultimate goal of 10 such areas in Europe.

Rewilding Europe’s eight other awe-inspiring rewilding areas are Portugal’s Greater Côa Valley; the Danube Delta in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova; Romania’s Southern Carpathians; Croatia’s Velebit Mountains; Italy’s Central Apennines; Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains; the Oder Delta in Germany and Poland; and Swedish Lapland.

“With Scotland’s rewilding movement growing rapidly – and the Scottish Rewilding Alliance calling for Scotland to become the world’s first Rewilding Nation, with the rewilding of 30% of the country’s land and sea by 2030 – Affric Highlands will take large-scale nature recovery to a new level, providing a catalyst for the local economy at the same time,” said Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life.

“The Highlands have huge potential to help nature to come back and so help people to thrive, and to make a leading contribution to tackling the global climate and nature emergencies. We are delighted Affric Highlands is now one of Rewilding Europe’s large rewilding areas that are inspiring hundreds of other rewilding projects across the continent.”

Because engaging and involving stakeholders from the beginning is crucial to the success of any rewilding initiative, Rewilding Europe has been working with Trees for Life to lay the foundations for this over the past three years – including through meetings with over 50 local stakeholders, drawing on experience from other major rewilding sites across Europe, and a scoping study.

As well as connecting habitats, Affric Highlands will bring people together to help nature recover, and strengthen connections between communities and the wildlife on their doorsteps.

 Forest rewilding has been at the root of Trees for Life’s work for three decades. The charity has so far established nearly two million native trees to restore the unique and globally important Caledonian Forest at its own 10,000 acre estate at Dundreggan in Glenmoriston, and at dozens of other sites in the Highlands, including Glen Affric.

In 2023, Dundreggan will become home to the world’s first Rewilding Centre – showcasing how large-scale nature recovery can give people amazing experiences, create jobs and benefit local communities.

Rewilding Europe says this work in the Highlands has been a beacon of hope for reversing declines in habitat and wildlife that have left vast swathes of Scotland overgrazed, treeless, denuded, drained and over-managed, to the point that little remains unmodified by humans.

“Affric Highlands is a bold, exciting and inspiring venture for nature’s recovery as Scotland moves up the biodiversity league table. Our decision to accept the project as our ninth rewilding area reflects the hard work and achievements of Trees for Life, its volunteers and its partners,” said Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe.

“Including Affric Highlands in our portfolio of major European rewilding areas will help magnify rewilding’s impact in the Highlands, and put it firmly on the global map.”

The project will take a grassroots, community-driven approach that grows organically – harnessing an interdependence of nature, people and businesses to create a more resilient area for the future.

Rewilding Europe’s rewilding principles, best practices and wealth of Europe-wide practical experience will help to shape and guide Affric Highlands on its rewilding journey.

Affric Highlands has been made possible thanks to funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Find out more about Affric Highlands at For details of Rewilding Europe’s rewilding areas, see

Glen Affric © Grant Willoughby.

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Scotland’s business community sends open letter to Ministers over “high risk economic self-harm” of testing policy divergence from UK


A group of business organisations led by the Scottish Tourism Alliance has written to economy focussed Ministers and officials seeking an urgent meeting on the renewed crisis in the tourism sector and supply chain as a result of Scottish Government policy.

Open letter from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scotland’s business communityOpen letter from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scotland’s business community

Commenting on the letter CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc Crothall said: 

“The Scottish Government’s latest decision on international travel restrictions, specifically around Day 2 testing has caused serious alarm across the travel, tourism and hospitality sector in Scotland and the broader business community.

I have received a steady stream of messages over the course of the weekend from businesses presenting direct and immediate evidence of the impact of the Scottish Government’s decision on international travel restrictions; as an example, one inbound operator has been told to direct all future bookings to airports south of the border.

It is the grave concern of many that international bookings, revenue and visitors are being lost not just now but should this policy remain, it could destroy any hopes of recovery in 2022.  Unless there is a swift change, the Scottish Government’s position on international travel will effectively write off international tourism to Scotland for another year to the detriment of our businesses, communities, supply chain and wider economy.


Our industry has gone above and beyond guidance and legal requirements to protect public health and support the Scottish Government’s efforts to curtail the spread of the virus and curb cases; we have requested that a member of the Scottish Government’s public health team also attends this meeting to explain how the most recent analysis of data supports the view that international travel is driving transmission.  This policy is causing immediate damage to revenues and represents high risk self-harm for jobs and the economy in the short, medium and long term.”


Rebecca Brooks, Managing Director of Abbey UK inbound tour operator said:


“The Scottish Government’s incomprehensible decision to diverge from the UK government in maintaining PCR testing for fully vaccinated international visitors to Scotland ensures no international recovery in the short to medium term as we now lose out to England and our European neighbours.

European countries have benefitted from the safe restart of International travel without testing for the vaccinated since the 19th July.  Given the immediate onset of the booking window for 2022, there is and will be no international demand whilst PCR testing remains in place, impacting the supply chain for both leisure and business sectors. Inbound operators are now facing the bleak reality of entering a third year with little to no business whilst this colossal disadvantage remains and face potential market failure after nineteen months of no trade. I would call on the Scottish Government to urgently revise their decision or risk the survival of this sector and all of the livelihoods who depend on it.”

Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network commented:

“We simply fail to comprehend and are shocked by the Scottish Government’s decision not to align with others to remove the need for a PCR test for double vaccinated tourists and business travellers. This is not only about the tourism and travel industry, it touches every part of our economy.  Do we seriously believe that our economy will grow, and we will be able to attract investment, without being connected and accessible to the world?

The impact, if this decision if not reversed quickly, is that we will have airlines and operators withdrawing from Scotland with businesses being forced to direct all our exporting and importing trade through other airports.  How will this support jobs in Scotland?”


We need to hear and see the data which has driven this decision which is completely contradictory to leading global scientific evidence.”


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Article published 27/08/2021

International travellers to Scotland will be able to use private sector COVID tests

People will be able to use private sector tests when returning, or visiting, from green or amber list countries under a change to international travel restrictions.

The step will allow people to choose from a list of approved providers when booking the tests they will need to take after arriving in Scotland.

People previously had to book NHS home PCR tests via the UK Government’s booking portal.

The opportunity to ease the restriction – which will come into effect in early September – has been made possible by enhanced monitoring of the performance and reliability of private testing providers to ensure public health safeguards are maintained. There is also the additional safeguard of removing any provider that does not meet stringent performance measures.

“The step provides more choice and flexibility for travellers and will provide a boost for the tourism and aviation sector.

We have had regular engagement with the UK Government to understand the measures being taken to ensure test results will be communicated rapidly and reliably to both individuals and to contact tracing services.

We have also been reassured that any positive results will be genomically sequenced to quickly identify any variants of concern.

The decision carefully weighs the benefit to the travel sector against our responsibility to the wider public health, and is a further endorsement of the resounding success of our domestic vaccination roll out.”

Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care


The current list of eligible test providers can be found on the website.

Since 17 May, international travellers arriving in Scotland have been required to comply with certain requirements or restrictions, depending on which country they have arrived from. This can include self-isolation and undertaking tests at specified points after their arrival.

Self-isolation is no longer required for international travellers arriving from amber list countries, provided they are fully vaccinated through a UK, EU or USA vaccination programme and take a PCR test on the second day after arrival.

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Scottish Seabird Centre Welcomes Young People’s Champion Louise Macdonald as its First Ambassador

One of the UK’s leading conservation and education charities, the Scottish Seabird Centre, has announced that Louise Macdonald, the national director for the Institute of Directors and former CEO of Young Scot, the award-winning youth information and citizen charity, has become its first ambassador.

Since its establishment the Scottish Seabird Centre has supported tens of thousands of young people to develop their curiosity in, and understanding of, Scotland’s amazing coastal and marine environments through its community-based education and outreach activities. The charity also supports young people in their early careers in conservation, education, tourism and hospitality, through direct employment and student projects and placements.

In welcoming Louise Macdonald as the first ambassador for the Centre, Susan Davies the Chief Executive said: “We are thrilled that Louise has agreed to become the first ambassador for the Scottish Seabird Centre. Her passion for championing and supporting children and young people in shaping their own futures is greatly admired. Louise is also a great lover of wild places and the benefits to wellbeing from being connected with nature.

“Louise will challenge how we engage with children and young people and support us in forging new partnerships that help inspire them to care for, and challenge all of us, to protect Scotland’s amazing marine wildlife.”

On taking up the role, Louise Macdonald said: “I am delighted to be able to support Susan, and the whole Scottish Seabird Centre team, in their drive to offer more opportunities to young people, right across Scotland, to help them experience the wonders of Scotland’s marine wildlife.

“We are at a critical time where the need to tackle climate change and loss of nature has never been more self-evident. Through dialogue, learning resources, and interactive experiences the Charity has an important role in enabling young people to have their voice about the importance of Scotland’s marine environments to them and to the communities they live within.”

In her role as ambassador, Louise will directly advise the Scottish Seabird Centre team on how to best engage and inspire even more children and young people across Scotland through their activities, educational programmes and new partnerships.

Institute of Directors.Scotland.
Royal College of Physicians,
Queen Street , Edinburgh,
Portraits of the new National Director of Institute of Directors.Scotland , Louise Macdonald.
Credit – Phil Wilkinson

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Famous fins make a welcome return to Hebridean seas

Over the past 20 years, much-loved minke whales – Kasey and Knobble – have been returning to the waters off the west coast of Scotland each summer, highlighting how important Hebridean seas are for these animals. Incidentally, both whales were spotted for the first time this year on the same day – Tuesday 27th July!

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is now appealing to members of the public to get involved and send in photographs of any whales and dolphins they’ve snapped, to try and identify the individuals. Using a technique called photo-identification (photo-ID), HWDT researchers can build a better picture of both individual whales and the wider population.

First recorded in 2002, Knobble has been re-sighted more than 50 times, with most encounters in the waters around Mull during July and August. This year was no different, with Andy Tait – a dedicated guide with wildlife tour operator, Sea Life Surveys – spotting Knobble and taking photographs to confirm the identity of the whale.

“What a day! We were close to the Cairns of Coll, when our old friend popped up and circled the boat at a distance. Knobble the minke whale was surfacing in different places and certainly kept us on our toes!” Andy Tait, Sea Life Surveys Guide

Much of what we know about Knobble are thanks to Andy Tait’s photos and sightings reported by Sea Life Surveys. Prior to this encounter, Knobble’s last known whereabouts was a similar spot, on the 27th  of August last year (also by Andy Tait). However, there is still much to discover about these majestic animals, including solving the mystery of where they go in the winter.

Further north that same day, Lesley Hawkins captured a fantastic video of Kasey the minke whale during a trip with Arisaig Marine. This inquisitive whale surfaced right next to the boat, much to the delight of all the folks on board, giving them a great view of Kasey’s distinct dorsal fin with three nicks along the trailing edge. First photographed in 2000, Kasey is another regular visitor to the Hebrides and has been seen more than 30 times during the past twenty-one years.

Andy and Lesley’s recent sightings reports highlight how vital boat crews and the public are to track the movements of individual animals year after year and contribute to long-term monitoring in the region. Anyone can get involved and the Trust have had photographs submitted from land, tour boats, kayaks and ferries, that have contributed to their photo-identification catalogues, that have been running since the early 1990’s.

Photo-ID is a non-invasive research technique and is an extremely useful tool for learning more about whales and dolphins. Whales and dolphins have distinct dorsal fins that can be used to identify an individual, much like our fingerprints.  By curating catalogues of the individual whales and dolphins found off Scotland’s west coast, we can build a deeper understanding of these enigmatic creatures.    “If you’ve got any photographs or videos of whales on the west coast of Scotland, past or present, please get in touch. Your photos help us to build a long-term picture of whale movements in Scotland and show if individuals favour particular areas. They can also teach us about the health of individuals, and we can learn more about the threats that they face. With these insights into their lives, your photographs provide the evidence needed for their protection.” Pippa Garrard, HWDT Education Manager

It’s not just minke whales, the Trust catalogues sightings of all whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks seen on the west coast of Scotland. HWDT researchers are currently updating the minke whale catalogue, so what better time to help improve our understanding by sending in your photographs for analysis.

You can easily log your excursions and report your sightings on their free smartphone app, Whale Track. To upload your photos visit the easy-to-use Whale Track website at, or e-mail

“Every single sighting and photo is important and we would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who is part of the Whale Track Community and has taken the time to report what they have seen.”  Pippa Garrard, HWDT Education Manager.


Knobble the minke whale


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Puffling Watch – national education and conservation charity calls on public to help Firth of Forth pufflings

One of Scotland’s leading conservation and education charities, the Scottish Seabird Centre, is calling on residents and visitors to East Lothian and Fife to help the endangered puffin population by looking out for young puffins as they begin to leave their burrows on nearby islands and become disorientated by lights from the mainland.

Every summer, adventurous, though slightly confused, pufflings are rescued from a range of tight spots along the Firth of Forth coastline, including underneath cars, behind bins and plant pots. The puffin is red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as it is globally vulnerable and declining in numbers. By reporting any unusual sightings of the small grey chicks, residents and visitors play a vital role in helping this much-loved seabird. Once reported, the team from the Scottish SPCA or the Scottish Seabird Centre can collect the pufflings and release them in safer areas, away from known predators.

Scottish Seabird Centre Conservation Officer, Emily Burton, explains: “Puffins and their pufflings are now leaving their burrows on the Isle of May and other islands in the Firth of Forth. Pufflings fledge at night to avoid predation and some pufflings can become disorientated by lights from the mainland. This may see them flying into town and seeking somewhere dark to hide from predators such as underneath cars, behind bins and under plants in gardens.

“When we’re notified of their misadventures, we carefully collect the pufflings take them out to sea and release them, well away from the dangers of the mainland. They then typically swim off into the North Sea, where they will stay for the next three years.

“We are appealing for people to be extra vigilant over the next few weeks and, if they spot a puffling, to immediately alert the Scottish Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.”

“It is important to note that pufflings look completely different from their adult counterparts. People often don’t realise what they can see is a puffling! They are shades of grey, white and black; their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have during the summer.”

This year, around 4000 apparently occupied puffin burrows were recorded on Craigleith and around 45,000 in total on islands in the Forth, with two adults and one puffling for each successful burrow nest.

The Scottish Seabird Centre leads a number of campaigns focusing on the conservation of seabirds and the marine environment including SOS Puffin, a project to remove an invasive plant called tree mallow. This plant can prevent puffins from nesting on the nearby islands of Fidra, the Lamb and Craigleith, and cause significant population decline.

Over the last 14 years more than 1300 SOS Puffin volunteers have made regular trips to the islands to control the tree mallow, allowing the populations of breeding puffins to recover.


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New £3m investment fund for boat-based tourism in Scotland

Crown Estate Scotland has  launched a special fund to help promote the sustainable development of Scotland’s marine tourism sector.

The £3m challenge investment fund will also help aid the green economic recovery for coastal communities who rely heavily on boat-based tourism, by helping them to expand their ability to support the growth of marine tourism in their area, such as new shore-based and harbour facilities.

It is the first of three challenge investment funds set to be launched by Crown Estate Scotland, with schemes for local partnerships and innovation with natural resources to follow. Together the funds will total approximately £9m, and will take the form of direct commercial investments by Crown Estate Scotland.

As the manager of Scotland’s seabed plus around half the foreshore, Crown Estate Scotland is committed to finding new and innovative ways of supporting the coastal economy, especially after what has been such a difficult time for coastal communities who rely on being able to attract visitors.

Applications are encouraged from those who can demonstrate an ability to make a positive impact on boat-based tourism and have a strong track record of partnership working. The potential investments will range from £350,000 to £750,000 for projects that align with wider regional development priorities.

Andy Wells, Director of Property for Crown Estate Scotland, said: “It was always our intention to launch this fund as part of our wider commitment to support Scotland’s blue economy, but with so many communities suffering from the pandemic’s impact on tourism and hospitality, we hope this is a timely announcement.

“People come from all over the world to enjoy Scotland’s seas and coastline, and we want to do all we can to help Scotland’s coastal communities fully benefit from a revived tourism sector.”

Minister for Tourism Ivan McKee said: “I’m very happy to hear of this investment from Crown Estate Scotland to support coastal communities in improving their local tourism infrastructure, and I would greatly encourage applications from those who could benefit.

“Many of these communities have been strongly impacted by the pandemic and this initiative will support long term economic recovery of coastal communities, increasing opportunities for enhanced visitor spend. As we begin to lift restrictions we are determined to do all we can to further develop sustainable tourism growth in Scotland.”

Alan Rankin, Chief Executive at Sail Scotland, said: “The fund has come at a critical time for the sector. Marine Tourism will play a key role in the sustainable recovery of the national economy and is recognised as the life blood of many rural coastal and island communities. This specific fund is most welcome and will drive vital investment into infrastructure and help build the quality of the world renowned boating and marine experiences around our shores.”

Martin Latimer and Simon Limb, Joint Chairmen of British Marine, said: “ Scotland British Marine Scotland have been working closely, at a strategic level, with Crown Estate Scotland for many year to strengthen Scotland’s marine tourism offer, known for bringing valuable revenue to the  Scottish islands and remote coastal  and waterside settlements. The sector’s ambition to increase its contribution to the Scottish economy to over £1/2bn recognises the importance of investment in capital projects and the catalytic effect this has on business & community development. The Scottish Marine Tourism Strategy, Giant Strides, has the development stronger communities and sustainable businesses at its heart and consequently the fund for the development of Boat-Based Tourism is greatly appreciated by our organisation”.

The full criteria and background information of the fund can be found here. The process has also been designed to align with the Scottish marine tourism strategy Giant Strides. The criteria reflects feedback received from a consultation which was previously carried out by Crown Estate Scotland.

All enquiries to the fund should be submitted to

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