Scotland misses tree-planting target

Scotland has narrowly missed its latest annual target for creating new woodlands.

Nearly 22 million trees have been planted in the past 12 months, covering an area spanning 10,860 hectares.

This is slightly short of the target for 12,000 hectares of new forests to be established each year and below the 11,200 hectares planted the previous year.

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However, the goal for planting native trees - 3,000 to 5,000 hectares annually - was comfortably achieved, with 4,529 hectares created.

A total of 10,860 hectares of new trees were planted across Scotland in the past year, slightly short of the target for 12,000 hectares
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Indigenous species made up around 42 per cent of all the new woodland planted in the year up to March 2020.

Scotland also delivered more than 80 per cent of all new trees planted throughout the UK.

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Coronavirus lockdown restrictions and bad weather hampering planting work have been blamed for the overall shortfall.

But Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said Scotland is “punching above its weight” when it comes to woodland creation, with planting at one of its highest levels in the past two decades.

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Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said the planting figures represent an "outstanding result in what were really difficult circumstances", with work thwarted by a wet winter followed by the coronavirus lockdown

“This is an outstanding result in what were really difficult circumstances,” he said.

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“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.

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The new woodlands will make an important contribution to tackling the global climate emergency.

Scotland’s forests remove around 9.5 million tonnes of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.

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Forests currently cover just short of 19 per cent of the country’s total land mass area - the Scottish Government’s forestry strategy aims to increase this to 21 per cent by 2032.

But Scottish Greens MSPs have said blaming the coronavirus outbreak for failing to hit the target is “pure spin” when only one week of the planting period was during lockdown.

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“This is disappointing, and once again reveals the gap between the rhetoric on tackling the climate emergency and action to tackle it,” Mark Ruskell, the party’s environment spokesman, said.

“To blame the Covid crisis for this is pure spin, and comparisons with what Westminster are doing is not helpful.

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“If we’re going to be serious about restoring our forests and peatlands we need to up the scale.”

Industry leaders have welcomed the latest results.

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Stuart Goodall, chief executive of membership body Confor, said: “In the face of major challenges, this is a very good result and shows the sector is in a strong place to meet targets for 2020-21 and beyond.

“We are also in a strong position to play a central role in the green recovery following the enormous difficulties created by the pandemic.

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“Increased tree planting helps deliver on our climate change objectives, but it also provides vital jobs and investment in our rural economy.”

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director



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