Confor in The Herald Forestry Special

6 December 2023

The failure to meet tree planting targets in Scotland - and the reasons for that - have been highlighted in an article by Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall.

In a contribution to The Herald newspaper's annual forestry supplement, Mr Goodall describes the “processes and challenges involved in getting approval for new planting schemes amid a lack of consistency across Scotland.”

He says this is a real frustration as the forestry sector is committed to, and capable of, meeting the planting targets - and surveys show consistent public support for growing more trees and producing more timber.

This is particularly the case with large planting projects that often attract investors – a community that the Scottish Government has stated it wishes to attract more generally in Scotland.

Mr Goodall says: “When you have keen investors putting in proposals for good projects, and in some cases the consultation just drags on and on, you are basically driving away investment in the sector.

"All too often, investors are faced with more and more requests for information and changes late on in the application process which delay approval still further. We are in a climate emergency but applicants bemoan a lack of urgency and want to see more decisiveness on the part of the regulators.”

Currently, it can take two or more years for a planting scheme to be approved in Scotland and this is not sustainable in the long term.  Negative perceptions towards wood-producing forests is part of the problem and more could be done to combat this through clearer communication by government and Scottish Forestry of the significant benefits these forests provide and more effective engagement by industry with local communities - Confor is prioritising this activity in its own work.

The Herald Forestry Special was published just before the Scottish Government’s woodland creation summit, which takes place on December 12th. Its aim is to identify the means to drive up tree planting  and meet Scottish Government’s targets and is being chaired by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon MSP, after tree planting targets were not met for the fifth year running.

The Herald supplement also features contributions from Confor members Scottish Woodlands, Tilhill and Goldcrest.

To read more, you can access The Herald Forestry Special here.