DELEGATES at a significant forestry conference in Edinburgh this week understand they work in a sector which is economically and environmentally crucial to Scotland.
As trade body Confor noted in The Scotsman last week, forestry is also a long-term business. The lives of softwood trees, the productive heartbeat of our industry, are not measured in political cycles, but in decades. So I’m delighted forestry minister Paul Wheelhouse will be at the conference to hear from the sector. Mr Wheelhouse has stressed his firm commitment to forestry and recognises its twin economic/environmental benefits. Scotland’s forestry sector supports 40,000 jobs, adds £1.7 billion in annual economic value and is vital to plans to meet Scotland’s world-leading carbon reduction targets.
Forestry’s virtuous cycle depends on constantly planting new woodland to ensure a long-term timber supply. I endorse Confor’s call to extend the Scottish Government pledge to plant 6,000 hectares of productive forestry annually through to 2042. This will secure 1,000-plus jobs, sequester an additional 55 million tonnes of carbon – and guarantee continued investment.
All businesses in the supply chain depend on secure timber supply and demand. That includes my own company, Scottish Woodlands, which is 80 per cent employee-owned with 145 staff and 13 Scottish offices, from Strathpeffer to Castle Douglas. Our recent results indicate a continued strong performance, bucking recessionary challenges, with sales reaching £64m and after-tax profits well over £500,000.
It is vital to our woodland-owning clients that we have sustainable, strong markets for their timber and if sufficient new productive trees are not planted, continued investment by the processing sector is endangered.
From nurseries and woodland services companies to sawmillers and those creating products from sawn timber, all forestry businesses depend on security of supply – and this requires a commitment to create new woodland now. That’s the message we will stress to Paul Wheelhouse and other politicians tomorrow.
• Colin Mann is managing director of Scottish Woodlands, a sponsor of tomorrow’s forestry conference: www.scotsmanconferences.com