Geopark Shetland, the organisation which celebrates the isles geological heritage, is among seven included in a new programme of “global geoparks”.The United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) has announced the new programme – the first of its kind for 40 years.
It puts global geoparks, including Shetland, alongside the organisation’s world heritage sites.
The UK is home to seven global geoparks, stretching from the English Riviera to Shetland and including two in Wales and a cross-border global geopark shared by Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The UK sites are part of a growing international network of global geoparks – areas of outstanding geological interest which use their unique geology to drive community development.
Geopark Shetland is managed by Shetland Amenity Trust, whose general manager Jimmy Moncrieff hailed the news.
He said: “This is a wonderful achievement for Shetland to receive Unesco recognition for its world-class geology.
“It is a prestigious accolade which everyone in Shetland should be proud of. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has worked so very hard to bring this to fruition.”
Amenity trust chairman Brian Gregson said: “It is exactly 10 years since Shetland Island Council agreed that Shetland should seek membership of what was then the European Geopark Network.
“This tremendous achievement is the result of hard work, dedication and commitment and I heartily congratulate all those involved.
“My hope is that this new designation will release adequate and secure core funding for Geopark Shetland to enable us to continue properly to represent Shetland’s amazing geological heritage on the global stage and to develop further opportunities for our communities to benefit from it.”
Geoparks across the UK have already brought millions of pounds of investment to their local areas, generating an estimated £8.7 million from April 2014 to March this year. Geopark Shetland has attracted £500,000 of outside funding to deliver interpretive and educational projects and promotional activities.
The most recent was securing funding from the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme for a three-year project “Drifting Apart”, in partnership with geoparks from Canada, Iceland, Norway and Ireland.