Confor takes positive messages to media

13 February 2018

Confor has taken a positive forestry message to the Scottish media - with a call for the industry to be judged on modern-day successes, rather than historic prejudices.

Chief Executive Stuart Goodall addressed recent questions about the benefits of forestry head-on with first-person articles in The Times and The Scotsman in consecutive days. Three days later, Scotland Manager Jamie Farquhar wrote a detailed article about the potential of tree-planting to farmers in the new Farm Focus magazine, published with the Press & Journal and The Courier. Read the article here.

Stuart Goodall's column in The Times followed specific criticisms of plans for new tree planting on an estate in the Scottish Borders. The following day, he stressed the wide-ranging benefits of modern forestry in Confor's latest Friends of the Scotsman article. The link to The Scotsman article is here 

Mr Goodall wrote in The Times: "We are entering a new age of forestry. Unfortunately, critics’ reference points appear to remain the forestry practices of the past. It is vital that modern forestry is judged on its own merits." 

He said: "Modern forestry has come in for some unfounded criticism on the back of a very specific dispute in the Borders - and it is vitally important to address those criticisms. Confor acted quickly in response to concerns raised by members to secure the slot in The Times and also took advantage of its regular Scotsman column. 

"Both articles mentioned the recent Michael Gove visit to Jerah, arranged by Confor. Taking senior politicians to see modern forestry is crucial in getting our messages across and Confor has also held meetings with MSPs this week." 

Mr Goodall added: "We are very keen to work with the farming community to stress the benefits of planting trees on a portion of a farm. This is what Jamie addressed in his article - in a magazine with a circulation close to 100,000 in an imporant geographical area, covering the North-East of Scotland, the Highlands, Perthshire, Angus and Fife. Today, our Technical Director Andrew Heald discussed forestry on Radio 4's Farming Today.

"Confor will continue to take the positive message of modern productive forestry to the media - there is a great story to tell and we will continue leading the way in telling it." 


This is the text of Stuart Goodall's article, which appeared in The Times on 8th February, 2018: 

We are entering a new age of forestry. Unfortunately, critics’ reference points appear to remain the forestry practices of the past. 

It is vital that modern forestry is judged on its own merits. As a champion for the sector, I’m always happy to discuss and debate tree planting and wood production, one of the most sustainable industries we have. 

Last weekend, Environment Secretary Michael Gove saw the real face of modern forestry in the Ochils, where 1.3 million trees are growing above Menstrie – 16 different species and a variety of habitats. 

Scotland’s largest new forest is reducing flood risks in a village inundated as recently as 2012. Schoolchildren helped create a community forest and new forest roads have improved access to higher slopes for walkers, fell-runners and mountain bikers. The site was also designed to help restore black grouse populations. And then there is carbon – over 183,000 tonnes of CO2 locked up, equivalent to the annual emissions of 18,000 families. 

In around 15 years, trees will begin to be harvested, supplying sawmills and wood processors across Scotland - including Norbord at Cowie, which employs 330 people just eight miles away. Across Scotland, forestry and wood processing is a £1 billion business, providing 25,000 jobs. 

While the benefits of new forests are massive, our ambitions are relatively modest. Scotland’s forest cover of 18 per cent is about half the European average. 

Scottish Government policy to plant trees is based on clear environmental, economic and social benefits, including supporting the tourist industry. Forest recreation and tourism employs 6000 people and contributes £183 million to Scotland’s economy. 

Everyone with an interest in the environment and vibrant rural communities should engage with modern forestry. Planting part of a farm with trees is not failure; it is diversifying production, a new income stream, shelter for animals, and more efficient livestock management. 

There are many strongly-held views about what is right for our countryside. But we need an open, respectful debate about the way forward, particularly once the UK leaves the EU.  Confor has contributed positively with its Common Countryside Policy paper, examining future support for rural areas. 

We will continue talking with farmers, local communities, environmentalists and landowners about delivering a prosperous, sustainable future for our countryside. But that dialogue must be based on facts and evidence, not historic prejudices and outdated perceptions.