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Tree planting hits new high in Scotland – Scottish Business News



Tree planting hits new high in Scotland – Scottish Business News

Tree planting in Scotland has reached its highest level in the modern generation, according to official statistics released today.

Confor’s Chief Executive Stuart Goodall welcomed the figures but said they were “bitter-sweet” given a recent swingeing budget cut for tree planting – and urged the Scottish Government to commit additional funding quickly to reflect the strong demand for woodland creation.

The Forest Research statistics showed that more than 15,000 hectares of new forests were created in Scotland during the 2023/24 planting period. This included a healthy conifer component of 8,720 hectares, alongside 6,320 hectares of broadleaf planting. Across the UK, a total of 20,660 hectares were planted – 4,550 in England, 640 in Wales and 430 in Northern Ireland.

The independent Climate Change Committee advises that Scotland should be planting 18,000 hectares of new woodland per year by 2025 (out of 30,000 hectares across the UK) to fight the damaging effects of climate change.  After peaking at a modern high of 11,210 hectares in 2018-19, the annual figures in Scotland had fallen annually to a disappointing 8,190 hectares in 2022-23. 

This prompted the Scottish Government to announce a forestry summit to address the shortfall, which took place in December 2023. Just days later, however, the Scottish Government announced a cut of more than 40% in its woodland creation budget for 2024-25.

Mr Goodall said: “These new woodland creation figures are bitter-sweet. They are positive news for Scotland’s economy and environment and they highlight the very strong demand we have in Scotland to create new woodland, including a strong component of wood-producing forests.

“It is an impressive performance from the forestry sector, both private and public, and the sector as a whole should reflect on a job well done.

“That said, it comes after the Scottish Government has taken an axe to the grants available for woodland creation next year. Surely, having seen what can be achieved when the private and public sector work together towards a common goal, the Scottish Government has to respond and find the additional funds required to secure a similarly strong performance next year?”

Mr Goodall added: “Let’s build on the growth in planting this year. With clarity on increased future funding, our nurseries will plant the young trees we need. Businesses across Scotland will invest and create jobs, and we can collectively take a big stride towards our net zero target.”

April Armstrong, Confor’s National Manager for Scotland, said: “If we don’t get a clear commitment to increased future funding soon, the boom of 2023-24 could lead straight to bust – and that would be hugely damaging for Scotland’s rural economy and environment. In light of the new planting statistics, Confor is calling on the Scottish Government to take the right path.”

On the UK-wide figures, Mr Goodall said: “Things are improving and we are starting to see an impact on planting from positive changes introduced in England,” said Mr Goodall. “However, the new UK Government must commit to planting more wood-producing forests – with a focus on timber security in a world where demand for wood is growing fast. Doing this can deliver enormous environmental and economic benefits for the UK.”

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