Forestry grants must become more farmer-friendly, NFU Scotland says

NFU Scotland noted that ‘greenwashing’ remained a huge concern for Scottish farmers and crofters
NFU Scotland noted that ‘greenwashing’ remained a huge concern for Scottish farmers and crofters

Forestry grants must become more farmer-friendly and support the establishment of smaller areas of trees that can integrate into farms, NFU Scotland has said.

The asks follow a six-week survey of the union's members, which will be used as a response to the Scottish government’s consultation on the Forestry Grant Scheme.

Scottish farmers and crofters who took part also highlighted concerns over the award of planting grants to establish trees on productive farmland.

NFU Scotland said the Scottish government must recognise that farmers wanted a "right tree in the right place" policy.

The union's vice president, Andrew Connon said: “Members remain deeply concerned about the volume of productive land in Scotland that is being taken out of agricultural production for trees.

"This loss of productive land is regularly supported by the existing forestry grant scheme."

Responses pointed to the fact that large swathes of productive farmland were being bought by private investors looking to offset carbon emissions in their own industries.

Farmers highlighted fears that this was not being done with food production or nature in mind, but a way to satisfy individual business interests at the expense of rural areas.

Responding to the concerns, NFU Scotland said that ‘greenwashing’ remained a huge concern for farmers and crofters.

On future budgets for planting, the majority of responses believed that food production should be the priority for the agriculture budget.

Forestry and woodland funding should not dilute this and come from a separate funding stream, farmers said in the survey.

Of those respondents who have had experience of applying for forestry grants, the vast majority found the current process complicated and expensive.

A lack of support from Scottish Forestry advisors saw many having to employ consultants to complete applications.

Mr Connon said that had been "prohibitive" and must change if small-scale planting was to be encouraged.

“We need an easier application process, less red tape and support for smaller areas of woodland, shelter belts and hedgerows that we can integrate into existing agricultural activities," he added.

“We will continue to engage with Scottish Forestry on the development of the grant scheme to ensure it’s workable for farmers and crofters.”