Emergency funding has helped us save our charity

Woman with binoculars next to statue
For World Environment Day, Susan Davies, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, describes how the Heritage Emergency Fund saved the charity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

I have always loved this quote from naturalist Simon King:

“The Scottish Seabird Centre is a bridge between the wild spirits of the ocean and the enquiring minds who want to discover it.” 

Scottish Seabird Centre has stunning views out across the Firth of Forth to the Bass Rock – the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

We have unparalleled access to the wider islands in the Firth of Forth which thrive with seabirds at this time of year, including the comical Atlantic puffin with its colourful bill, and the dolphins and seals around the coastline.

We also run wildlife boat trips, normally a key part of anyone’s visit to the Centre.

Complete closure


Bass Rock guga
Bass Rock guga (baby gannet). Credit: Maggie Sheddan

Then, as for many businesses and visitor attractions, coronavirus (COVID-19) brought a complete closure to our operations. It was just at the point the short but hectic tourism season should have been getting into full swing.

The opportunity to raise awareness of our marine and coastal environment through the Scottish Government’s Year of Coast and Waters 2020 was also stifled.

"The very future of our charity looked perilous. We faced the instant loss of all our not-for-profit trading income."

The very future of our charity looked perilous. We faced the instant loss of all the not-for-profit trading income that comes from our visitors. That income is what supports our wider charitable conservation, education and community activities across the year. 

And that’s the point really. We are much more than simply a tourism attraction. We are a conservation and education charity that uses the resources we have in our centre to bring people closer to the amazing habitats and wildlife that Scotland’s seas support.

We inspire people in our discovery experience and through our learning hub, outdoor learning and outreach activities to care for Scotland’s marine environment. 

How the Heritage Emergency Fund helped us

The launch of the Heritage Emergency Fund came at a critical time for us as we had just launched our own Urgent Public Appeal to Save the Scottish Seabird Centre.

The rapid reshaping of support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the ease of the application process and the quick turn-around times of the assessment process, clearly illustrated how The National Lottery understood the reality of the financial impact of the pandemic on a charity like ours.

It is also recognition that the recently completed 18-month investment in the refurbishment of our Centre, to broaden and modernise our offer, is worth safeguarding; especially at a time when there’s an increasing public awareness of the importance of protecting our marine natural environment.  

“Connecting people with nature, generating an affinity for it and then drawing upon this love to prompt conservation has never been more important.”

Conservationist Chris Packham

The importance of the seas


Bass Rock gannets
Bass Rock gannets. Credit: Paul Hackett


It feels right that we have re-entered into a new funding relationship with The National Lottery on World Environment Day.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis the links between our wellbeing and having a healthy natural environment have become stronger and more visible.

"The call for a greener economy as we recover from the pandemic must be made loudly – and listened to."

Our seas support some iconic wildlife but importantly they also provide coastal defences, food, energy and the very air that we breathe. Much of that is threatened by climate change and so the call for a greener economy as we recover from the pandemic must be made loudly – and listened to.

In the same way that the seas give us oxygen, this funding has come at a time that helps breathe life back into the future of our charity.

It helps us to continue to play our part in ensuring that Scotland’s marine environment is healthy, wildlife-rich, valued and enjoyed by all.  

Susan's tips for applying for the Heritage Emergency Fund

  1. Before applying we thought carefully about how we fitted the eligibility criteria. What are the unique things that we do and offer that others may not? 
  2. Think about how you can demonstrate how you can use outputs from previous National Lottery funding to inform and enhance your impact into the future.  
  3. 'We also though hard about the level of funding we were asking for. We were also approaching other funders and wanted both to demonstrate need, but also that the request represented good value for money.

Heritage sector joins forces to tackle climate change

The heritage sector has an important role to play in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change. We’ve committed to working together with our sector partners to take action. Read our joint statement here and share using #WorldEnvironmentDay.

Supporting heritage during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Have you applied for support yet?

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is committed to helping the heritage sector through this crisis.

Our £50m Heritage Emergency Fund is open until 31 July for grants from £3,000–£250,000. We want to support as many organisations as we can. Submit an application before the deadline so we can help your organisation too.

Additional support includes:

  • Digital Skills for Heritage: increasing sector skills and confidence to bring heritage to more people
  • maintaining our financial commitment to all of our 2,500 existing projects
  • help and advice from our UK-wide teams

Find out more.

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