Planting figures in Scotland are 'very good result', says Confor

11 June 2020

Just under 11,000 hectares of new woodland were created in Scotland last year, new figures revealed today.

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall described the statistics as "a very good result in the light of major challenges" and said he was still optimistic about future planting levels. 

Official statistics showed that 10,860 hectares of new woodland were planted from April 2019-March 2020, slightly down on the 11,200 hectares for 2018-19 - and below the new target of 12,000 hectares.

However, Scottish Forestry said the figure was still the second highest since 2001 - and that prolonged bad weather followed by Covid-19 had caused significant disruption to the planting season and put the new target of 12,000 hectares out of reach.

There was also optimism about 2020-21. With tree planting approvals for 2020/21 already over 9,000 hectares, and a further 7,000 hectares of applications being worked on.

Scotland's Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is an outstanding result, in what were really difficult circumstances. A very wet winter slowed planting which then came to a stop as a result of the Covid-19. That was the right approach. No target is worth pursuing if it puts people’s lives at risk.

“So we should celebrate and welcome this achievement. Scotland has produced the second highest planting figure in nearly 20 years and again exceeding our original planting target. This is really positive news.

“We also know that there is a healthy number of woodland creation proposals coming forward. That is important, not only because of the contribution forestry makes to the rural economy, but also for the role it plays in providing essential supplies for the wider economy. That was demonstrated during the pandemic with timber being supplied for construction and maintenance in NHS facilities and for pallets for distributing medical and food supplies.

“Forestry will also have a key role to play in our Green Recovery, with productive conifers and native woodland helping to lock in carbon as we continue to strive to reduce our emissions to net zero."

Stuart Goodall, Confor CEO, said: "In the face of major challenges, this is a very good result and shows the sector is in a strong place to meet targets for 2020-21 and beyond. We are also in a strong position to play a central role in the green recovery following the enormous difficulties created by the pandemic. Increased tree planting helps deliver on our climate change objectives, but it also provides vital jobs and investment in our rural economy. Also, as a Confor report due out later this summer will show, all the new forests we create make a valuable contribution to promoting biodiversity."

Mr Goodall added: "We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and its agencies to return our industry to full production and to continue the expansion of the forestry and wood sector in Scotland."

Scotland’s forests cover 18.8% of the total land mass area and the ambition contained in the Scottish Government’s forestry strategy is to increase this to 21% by 2032.

The Scottish Government, as part of their climate change commitments, has already upped the planting targets for the future, rising to 15,000 ha a year from 2024/25.

Full UK woodland area, planting and publicly funded restocking  statistics can be found here.

Read Confor's comment on the planting figures for all of the UK here