Funding for tree planting schemes in Scotland has been trebled as woodland creation activity reaches unprecedented levels amongst farmers.
Currently, around 2,500ha of woodland creation activity, about the same size as East Kilbride, is being planned for this year around the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) area.
If all the projects come to fruition as expected, it will be the highest tree planting level in the area since 1999.
The increase in tree planting activity is largely due to Forestry Commission Scotland promoting the benefits of integrating woodlands into farming and landowning businesses.
The Central Scotland Green Network area stretches from Ayrshire and Inverclyde in the west, to Fife and the Lothians in the east.
Announcing the increased budget, Rural Affairs Secretary, Fergus Ewing said he is "especially pleased" with the high level of applications from farmers.
He said: “The CSGN is a key Scottish Government National Development and is regarded as an essential element for Scotland’s long-term economic recovery. The aim is to restore and transform the area’s landscape, making it a better place to live and do business in.
“I am very pleased to see woodland creation activity at such high levels – it is very encouraging news and I congratulate all for the hard work in achieving this.
“I am especially pleased to note the high level of applications from farmers and landowners wishing to integrate more woodland into their existing businesses to improve their viability.
“We need to keep up this impetus. I have therefore trebled the funding available for the CSGN contribution and adjusted the grant rates so we can support more applications and up to 1,000 additional hectares per year.”
The announcement follows news of Defra Secretary Michael Gove's vision for post-Brexit agriculture, where farmers and landowners will be paid for environmentally friendly practices, such as woodland creation.
The government's recently announced 25-Year Environment Plan will also provide £5.7 million to kick-start the new Northern Forest, which has been touted as a rural economy booster for northern England.