Forestry leaders' doubts on planting plan

THE Scottish Government's enthusiasm for the forestry sector continued yesterday with cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead stating the industry had the potential to deliver "multiple benefits".

The minister then re-iterated the government's commitment to increase the acreage of woodland in Scotland by about 15,000 hectares annually so that, according to their plans, by 2050 one quarter of the country will be afforested.

But among the delegates attending a conference in Dunblane, there were doubts that, under the present subsidy regime, that target could be achieved.

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James Hepburne Scott of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society described the Scottish Rural Development Plan scheme as being "extremely tortuous" and almost having a "presumption against tree planting".

"It is severely hampering our ability to plant more trees," he added.

A similar view of the subsidy scheme was given by Raymond Henderson, of Bidwells, who stated that his firm had been involved in planting 2,600 hectares last year, but only 1,100 hectares of that total had come through with support from the SRDP scheme.

He said it was frustrating that, while there was an air of general optimism in the forestry sector, it was proving extremely difficult to convert this into reality.