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6 April 2017, 06:26
Proposals have been unveiled for a £5.5 million national marine centre on the East Lothian coast.
Conservationists at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick say the project will enhance education and conservation programmes at the centre and across Scotland.
It hopes to transform the existing attraction into a national hub which will showcase marine life and increase appreciation and understanding of Scotland's marine wildlife and research.
Grace Martin, project director for the national marine centre, said: "The Scottish Seabird Centre currently offers visitors an opportunity to engage with nature in a sustainable way.
"As a conservation and education charity, we welcome 4,000 schoolchildren a year and lead projects such as SOS Puffin.
"But, as with all charities, we must move with the times to remain viable and to achieve our objectives of inspiring people to care for wildlife and the natural environment.
"We have more education requests that we can accommodate and visitor expectations are at an all-time-high.
"Our vision is to create a centre that is of national significance and one that the local community is proud of.''
The Scottish Seabird Centre has been awarded development funding of £290,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to progress the plans.
HLF has also given initial support of £3.5 million for the project, with a further £2 million to be secured through fundraising.
The proposals aim to create an education centre for visiting school groups and provide outreach and online educational resources.
A range of interactive exhibitions are envisaged which will explore the marine world. The plans also feature an observatory which will allow visitors to view North Berwick's coastline.
Professor John Baxter, principal adviser marine at Scottish Natural Heritage and trustee of the Seabird Centre, is leading the project.
He said: "Under the surface of the seas is a hidden and very special world that we want to reveal and bring to life, for people of all ages, in exciting and engaging ways.
"Scottish universities are at the cutting-edge of marine environment research but there are at present limited opportunities for the public to share in this work.
"This new attraction will provide an immersive and interactive experience, communicating the latest research and inspiring people to look after our natural world.
"It is vital that we protect and conserve our seas and their wildlife for future generations.''