SEVERAL East Ayrshire-based organisations and businesses were represented at an event which marked a first for Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Tourism, Fiona Hyslop, launched a new Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere certification mark.

This will be awarded to businesses that can demonstrate high standards in delivering environmental and sustainable development benefits.

The Biosphere which covers 5268sq km sq (3273sq m), includes a large part of East Ayrshire, and comprises a wide array of landscapes, wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities for communities, businesses and visitors.

Ms Hyslop said:“As the first area in Scotland to receive UNESCO Biosphere status and with its wide variety of natural landscapes, cultural heritage and wildlife, the Biosphere has much to offer to local and international visitors.

“I am confident the new award will bring many opportunities to both businesses and communities in the area, ensuring our unique biosphere is preserved and promoted as a place of international significance for locals and tourists alike.”

A Biosphere is a special designation awarded by UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation - to areas renowned for their exceptional environments.