Scottish forestry jobs boom through downturn

Forestry is now a billion-pound industry in Scotland, with the number of jobs in the sector increasing by 50 per cent during the economic downturn, a new report has revealed.

Just over 13,000 people were working in forestry and wood processing when the last major survey was carried out in 2008 - but this rose to 19,500 by 2013/14.

The new figures show that when forestry jobs linked to tourism and wildlife management are added, the total employment figure is well over 25,000.

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: "This report demonstrates the growing importance of Scotland's forest-based sector to both rural areas and the national economy, an industry that has bucked the trend and posted impressive growth since the downturn in 2008.

"Scotland has some of the most technologically advanced sawmills in the world and the maturing of the forestry sector is supporting an increasing number and variety of rural jobs. It is becoming the employment bedrock of areas like Dumfries & Galloway, with complex supply chains delivering well-paid jobs and economic growth."

The report was prepared for Forestry Commission Scotland, and was officially launched today by Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod at a meeting of forestry sector leaders. It shows that Scotland's forestry and wood sector is contributing nearly £1 billion to the economy through forest management, timber processing and recreation - a substantial increase from the previous figure of £670 million.   

Dr McLeod said: "Scottish forestry is very much a hidden success story. It's no surprise that given the increase in timber production over the past seven years that the sector's contribution to the Scottish economy has grown with it. However, it is the size of the economic growth that is really impressive. And the 50 per cent increase in employment within the sector is brilliant news.

"With projected increases in wood fibre availability over the next 20 years and the industry's appetite for innovation, adding value and investment, the Scottish Government looks forward to continuing to support this important sector.

"Whilst this report focuses on the economics, we should not forget the other key benefits that forestry brings too. Our forests and woodlands create beautiful landscapes, are crucial in mitigating climate change and are increasingly recognised for the positive impacts they have on people's health and well-being.   

"Scotland's forestry sector is clearly delivering on many fronts and I want more people to know just what a success story it is and its benefits and contribution to Scotland's economy, environment, people and communities."

The previous report into the economics of forestry was carried out in 2008 when timber production was around 5 million tonnes each year. Timber production is currently sitting at record levels of 7.5 million tonnes per annum.   

Stuart Goodall added: "Forestry and wood is a unique sector, the only established industry where greater economic activity reduces carbon in the atmosphere, a topical achievement as the world comes together in Paris in December to tackle climate change.

"We welcome the support that the Scottish Government has given to this booming industry and look forward to delivering even more jobs, economic growth and carbon reductions for the people of Scotland."