Scottish tree planting hits second highest level since 2001 but misses annual target

Scotland delivered more than 80 per cent of all new tree planting in the UK last year, creating the second highest level of new woodland in almost 20 years, new figures reveal

The figures show that 10,860 hectares were planted, the second highest level since 2001. Picture: John McFarlane/Scottish Forestry

In total, 10,860 hectares of woodland were planted, the second highest level since 2001, meaning that nearly 22 million trees were planted in Scotland last year.

However, bad weather caused disruption to the planting season and put the new target of 12,000 hectares out of reach.

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The Covid-19 crisis has also hit tree planting though it is said to be back on track thanks to the easing of some lockdown restrictions.

Scottish Forestry said progress was being made, with forestry grant approvals for 2020/21 already covering 9,000 hectares, with a further 7,000 hectares of applications being worked on.

The yearly target for native woodland creation was achieved with 4,529 hectares being created, around 42 per cent of all the new woodland in Scotland.

Scottish Forestry said all of the new woodland would make an important contribution to tackling the global climate emergency. Some 9.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere from the country’s forests each year.

Scotland’s forests cover just under 19 per cent of the total land mass area and the ambition contained in the Scottish Government’s forestry strategy is to increase this to 21 per cent by 2032.

A mixture of an improved and streamlined applications process following implementation of the Mackinnon report, more promotion and better grant packages have helped boost tree planting across Scotland.

The Scottish Government, as part of its climate change commitments, has already upped the planting targets for the future, rising to 15,000 hectares a year from 2024/25.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is an outstanding result, in what were really difficult circumstances. A very wet winter slowed planting which then came to a stop as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“That was the right approach. No target is worth pursuing if it puts people’s lives at risk.

“Scotland has produced the second highest planting figure in nearly 20 years and again exceeding our original planting target. This is really positive news.”

He added: “We also know that there is a healthy number of woodland creation proposals coming forward. That is important, not only because of the contribution forestry makes to the rural economy, but also for the role it plays in providing essential supplies for the wider economy.

“That was demonstrated during the pandemic with timber being supplied for construction and maintenance in NHS facilities and for pallets for distributing medical and food supplies.

“Forestry will also have a key role to play in our Green Recovery, with productive conifers and native woodland helping to lock in carbon as we continue to strive to reduce our emissions to net zero.”

Last year saw Forestry Commission Scotland replaced by a new Scottish Government agency called Scottish Forestry.

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