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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.

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.

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

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.