Geoparks are run by local communities to promote and manage geological sites and landscapes with a strong focus on education and sustainable development, creating jobs and supporting small businesses. Scotland’s three Geoparks run visitor centres, organise events (including festivals, guided walks, talks and geotours) and provide interpretation to help visitors and locals understand the landscape and geology of the area.
In November 2015, UNESCO (the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture) announced the creation of UNESCO Global Geoparks. This is the first new UNESCO designation of its kind to be established in over 40 years and puts Global Geoparks alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of Global Geoparks is now formally recognised under the new programme. Geopark Shetland and the North West Highlands Geopark became UNESCO Global Geoparks in 2015, and Lochaber Geopark has now applied for UNESCO status.