Committee head pledges to fund planting targets

30 November 2016

The convener of the Scottish Parliament's rural economy committee has pledged to ensure that funding is in place to hit the Scottish Government's tree planting targets. 

Edward Mountain MSP mentioned forestry specifically at the launch of Rural Scotland in Focus 2016 after praising the "excellent and clear" report by SRUC's Rural Policy Centre.

Mr Mountain said: "We want to make sure the investment and the plans are in place to meet the planting targets set by government (10,000 hectares of new woodland per year)". 

Summarising the forestry section of the report, its editor Davy McCracken, of SRUC, said: "We don't need a debate on why we should manage our existing woodland and forests better or aspire to more forest cover. The economic, environmental and social drivers for more woodland in Scotland are clear."

The goal of increasing woodland cover from 18 per cent to 25 per cent by 2050 faced "practical and climate-related challenges", but there was evidence available about how these challenges could be overcome, he added. The amount of woodland under private ownership had to increase markedly to hit the 2050 target.

Prof McCracken also called for strong collective leadership from the public and private sector "to break down misperceptions and ensure we get the full range of forestry and woodland management and creation on the ground that we need in the future".

He added: "We need to increase the resilience of woodlands now and in the future - and farmers need to increase woodland much more effectively to make their land more sustainable in the long term."  

Andrew Heald, Confor's Technical Director, who contributed to the report, said: "It is great to see forestry right at the centre of the debate on the future of rural Scotland. Confor is committed to providing the strong leadership demanded by Davy McCracken and to working collaboratively with all other rural sectors to deliver the best results for Scotland.

"We know forestry provides a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits - whether that is rural jobs, climate change and flood mitigation, timber for much-needed new homes or income diversification and shelter belts for farmers. It is great to see that many others are embracing that message  in the long-term interests of rural Scotland."