Scottish farmers help create 7,100ha of new woodland

Scotland has delivered nearly 80% of UK new plantings, and farmers and landowners have helped achieve this
Scotland has delivered nearly 80% of UK new plantings, and farmers and landowners have helped achieve this

Farmers have helped create 7,100 hectares of new woodland planted during 2017/18, a rise of 2,300 hectares from the previous year.

The figures means that Scotland was responsible for 78% of new woodland creation in the UK last year.

Around 60 per cent is ‘productive’ planting – specifically aimed at growing sustainable timber. This is the highest level since 2000, and is crucial in supporting the sustainable growth of Scotland’s home-grown timber processors, who have been investing heavily in recent years.

The new planting figures would have been higher but extreme winter weather delayed over 800 hectares of planting until later in the year, too late to be included in the reporting period.

In spite of this large rise, the annual target of planting 10,000 hectares each year has not been reached.

However, plans and approvals already made for more tree planting in 2018 suggest that figures will be higher still for the current year.

The increase plantings has been described as “very encouraging” by Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing.

Mr Ewing said: “We’ve supported a good mix of woodland types, with 40% native and over 4,000 hectares of productive planting, the highest productive level since the year 2000. There is a renewed buzz and confidence in the industry and I am confident that our planting levels will continue to rise in future years.”

In last year’s spending review, Mr Ewing increased the 2018/19 Forestry Grants Scheme budget from £40m to £46m to enable more woodland and tree planting projects to go ahead next planting season.

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of CONFOR said many people were involved, including farmers.

“I’m heartened to see this increase, especially the proportion of productive trees planted which are so vital to support Scotland’s important forestry and wood processing industry. We now need to press on and ensure we meet and exceed 10,000 hectares a year to support rural jobs and lock up carbon.”

Already, over 9,000 ha of private sector schemes have been approved for 2018 and Forest Enterprise Scotland expects to create around 650ha on the National Forest Estate. A further 2,500ha of schemes have been submitted to Forestry Commission Scotland for consideration.

The current 10,000 ha a year woodland creation target remains until 2020-2021 when there will be a stepped increase to 15,000 ha by 2024-2025.