The results of a Scottish survey on the extent of a disease threatening the future of ash trees have been “cautiously welcomed”.
The Forestry Commission Scotland surveyed 80,000sq km (49,709sq miles) and found 5 per cent of the sites showed potential symptoms of chalara ash dieback.
The fungal disease is threatening to wipe out the majority of the UK’s ash trees. It has already killed up to 90 per cent in some areas of Denmark.
Five sites at Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway, Carrbridge in the Highlands, Blairgowrie in Perthshire, Montrose in Angus and Eyemouth in Berwickshire have been identified as infected, joining the previously identified sites near Kilmacolm in Renfrewshire and at a private nursery in Moray.
The infected sites will be revisited for further examination, the commission said.
Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Although the rapid survey has been completed, and the results are to be cautiously welcomed, we still need to be vigilant and there is no room for complacency.
“Forestry Commission Scotland has been carrying out a rapid survey involving inspecting 2,730 ash sites across Scotland. Action is also under way to trace the destination of plants sent out from potentially infected nurseries.
“Only 5 per cent of the sites visited in the rapid survey showed any potential symptoms meriting more detailed investigations and subsequent laboratory analysis, and this work is ongoing.
“In addition to the two sites already confirmed, a further five sites have so far been confirmed as being infected, bringing the total known confirmed cases to seven in Scotland.
“Further surveys will be needed before we can be confident about the full extent of the disease in Scotland. There is also the possibility of windborne spread of the disease from the continent and from infected sites elsewhere in these isles.”
The commission said the disease only spread in summer so there was now an opportunity to take appropriate action.
There was no risk to human or animal health and no need to restrict public access to woodlands, the commission said.