Growing a resilient Scotland

The need for new tree planting to fill the timber gap and protect a £1 billion industry and more than 25,000 jobs was the central talking point at a Confor event at SNP conference.

Mike Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said it was clear that more planting was needed and that the potential 'timber gap' had widened since his time as Environment Minister between 2007 and 2009. However, he stressed that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had committed to meet the Scottish Government's planting target of 100,000 hectares of new woodland in the decade to 2022.

Both Mr Russell and event chair Joan McAlpine, MSP for South of Scotland, represent rural areas with significant forestry interests.

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall, who also spoke at the event, Growing A Resilient Scotland, said: "We were delighted that two significant figures from the SNP were able to participate in a wide-ranging discussion about forestry's part in a healthy, sustainable future for rural Scotland. Both Mike Russell and Joan McAlpine recognise the importance of forestry and timber in providing jobs and investment in our rural communities - and the need to protect our £1 billion sector for future generations by increasing planting rates now."

Mr Goodall told the Fringe event - hosted jointly with The Woodland Trust Scotland - that the Forestry Commission Scotland report on the £1 billion forestry and timber sector showed what huge strides the sector was making. He added: "We have a thriving sector, providing thousands of jobs in complex rural supply chains. Forestry is a bedrock employer in areas like Dumfries & Galloway.

"However, to secure the continued success of the industry, we need to plant more trees now to protect the jobs and investment in the coming decades. Investment like Norbord's £95m upgrade and expansion of its Inverness mill will only continue if businesses are confident in a healthy future supply of timber."

Mike Russell - who will join the panel at Confor's Scottish conference in Edinburgh next week - told the event that he wanted to see an increase in communities delivering new forestry and benefiting through planting new productive woodland, including commercial forestry. He also highlighted that Scotland had lost its forest culture.

The Woodland Trust's Scottish Director Charles Dundas stressed the role tree planting could play in reducing flood risks - and spoke about the need to protect important sites of ancient woodland.

Mr Goodall concluded: "We had an excellent and wide-ranging discussion and I am delighted that Mike Russell reconfirmed the SNP's commitment to the forestry sector generally and to planting targets specifically. We have a great success story here but we need to act now on planting to ensure that the progress made is not lost for future generations."