Forestry sector fells six-figure funding boost to help recovery

Scotland’s £1-billion-a-year forestry industry has been boosted by the news that projects in Aberdeenshire that help improve the timber transport network have been awarded more than £520,000 from the Scottish Government.

Ewing says forestry has a key role to play in the Covid-19 green recovery. Picture: Alan Peebles.

Forestry is included under Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Route Map, which allows outdoor work such as forestry to fully restart its operations. The award is co-financed and drawn from the Strategic Timber Transport Fund, which is managed by Scottish Forestry.

The funding, to Aberdeenshire Council, goes mostly to upgrade minor roads – improving surfaces, widening corners, adding traffic-calming measures, or providing passing places. The aim is for the steps to help keep the flow of timber moving to market and reduce impacts on local communities.

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Announcing the funding, Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for economy and tourism, said: “Forestry is an important part of the rural sector, generating £1bn to the Scottish economy each year and supporting 25,000 jobs.

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“Throughout the Covid-19 green recovery, forestry has a very important role to play. We need to ensure that the infrastructure is there to support the industry on a number of fronts – and assisting with getting timber to market is one of them.”

The MSP continued: “Getting these important timber supplies out relies on a good transport network and this funding will help ensure this is in place to allow a long-term sustainable forest industry.”

The roads to be improved include the A97 Tom Dubh to Tillypronie; A97 Logie Coldstone to Tillypronie; C56M Suie car park to Denburn; and the C100s Kinnoir Sawmill Northwards. The funding will also pay for a timber transport project officer to advise and help generate local initiatives to improve getting timber to market.

It was noted that the forest industry is carrying out essential work during the Covid-19 outbreak. Timber is being used to produce key products such as pallets and packaging that are needed to transport food supplies and pharmaceuticals.

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of the Edinburgh-based Confederation of Forest Industries (UK) – or Confor – added: “This is a fantastic boost for Scotland’s forestry sector as we seek to recover from the harsh impacts of Covid-19. This welcome and very significant investment not only provides vital support to help the sector continue to grow, it also provides a real confidence boost at a difficult time.

“These are challenging times for everyone, and I’d like to pay testament to the support that cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing continues to provide to the sector. This is an industry that supports many thousands of rural jobs and contributes to tackling climate change, as well as supplying essential products for the fight against Covid-19. Our partnership with government helps us achieve more than we otherwise would be able to.”

It was also highlighted that over the past 14 years, nearly £60 million of Scottish Government Strategic Timber Transport Funding has helped deliver around 280 projects across Scotland.

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