Scotland leads way on UK tree planting - but misses target

16 June 2022

Scotland is planting more than 75% of all new woodland in the UK, according to new planting statistics released today - but industry leaders said there was still “work to do” after a slight fall in the area of trees planted.

Just under 10,500 hectares of new woodland were created in Scotland in the year to March 31st 2022 - the fourth consecutive year that Scotland has planted more than 10,000 hectares but a dip on the 10,660 hectares planted in 2020/21 and 3,000 hectares off the annual 2021/22 target of 13,500 hectares. 

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Edinburgh-based forestry and wood trade body Confor, said: “Scotland is leading the way in the UK in planting more trees and using more wood because it understands what modern, mixed-species and multi-purpose forests deliver - stronger rural economies, faster progress towards net-zero targets, flood mitigation, biodiversity benefits, better recreational opportunities for people, and much more.  

“However, we need to ensure that we maintain momentum as the ambitious targets for new planting set by the Scottish Government are increasing year on year. They are achievable, the interest is there, and we need to look at what lessons we can learn from the last year to ensure that we take the big step forward that’s required next year and beyond. 

“As ever, Confor and the industry stand ready to help.” 

In 2021-22, Scotland planted 10,480 hectares (ha) of new woodland - the vast majority of the UK total of 13,860 ha. England planted 2260ha, Wales 580 and Northern Ireland 540. 

Mr Goodall said Scotland was beginning to reap the economic and environmental benefits of tree planting - while the UK Government policy was “a total economic and environmental failure”. 

Boris Johnson pledged to plant 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) of new woodland every year by 2025 during the December 2019 election campaign - but official statistics show the total did not even reach 14,000 hectares in the year to March 31st, 2022 across the UK. 

Mr Goodall said there was "zero chance" of fulfilling the pledge to reach 30,000 hectares by the end of 2024, adding: "This is a total policy failure in both economic and environmental terms. Report after report has shown that increased tree planting and wood use is vital to meeting the UK's net zero targets - yet this is not being translated into trees in the ground. 

"This is especially true of productive forests, which produce wood alongside benefits for carbon, nature and the economy. The Government knows more wood is needed to build sustainable homes and it knows a timber shortage is coming. It also knows we need to grow more wood in the UK to reduce pressure on fragile global forests. Yet against all the evidence, the UK Government does not take decisive action.” 

Mr Goodall said the Climate Change Committee, independent adviser to the UK and Scottish Governments, had repeatedly highlighted the need to plant more trees and use more wood to deliver on net zero ambitions - but that only Scotland appeared to be listening. 

"There is currently zero chance of meeting UK planting targets unless we see decisive and immediate change. That means encouraging more wood-producing forests to be planted, making the process to do so more straightforward - and ensuring we grow more of the wood that our future low-carbon economy needs and avoid spiralling imports in a world where everyone wants more wood."

* Confor is the Edinburgh-based trade body representing 1500 sustainable forestry and wood-using businesses across the UK. It supports them through political engagement, market promotion and supporting members' competitiveness.

Image below shows young growth at the Jerah planting site in central Scotland.

Young growth at Jerah - pic 420