Letter: Avoid barking up wrong tree

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ANDY Wightman paints an idyllic picture of a woodland nirvana for Scotland (If you go down to the woods today, 26 February).

As bodies representing more than 4,500 forestry, land, rural and wood-using businesses, Confor and Scottish Land & Estates welcome his desire to increase Scotland’s forest cover in a meaningful, long-term way, and his understanding of forestry’s potential to revitalise rural economies and communities.

However, his suggestion that a changed ownership model will unlock the full potential of forestry is not, and never can be, a panacea for the future of our woodlands.

Fundamentally, a successful forestry sector depends on financial sustainability. Forestry can offer an enormous, inter-linked and diverse range of benefits – including employment and economic growth, recreation, carbon reduction and enhanced biodiversity – but these all depend on a long-term guaranteed income stream. This can come from various sources, including tourism and sporting interests, but the majority of money comes into forestry through wood sales.

Managing a forest, whatever size and for whatever purpose, costs money and secure income is necessary to deliver future investment – forestry is a long-term activity.

With rising timber prices and emerging markets in areas like local wood fuel, there is scope to increase the 40,000 jobs supported by Scotland’s forests, including through an expansion of the forest area.

More activity will take more carbon out of the atmosphere and provide additional income to care for Scotland’s forests. That is the big picture that everyone who has a deep interest in forestry should focus on.

Stuart Goodall, chief executive, Confor, Edinburgh; Douglas McAdam, chief executive, Scottish Land & Estates, Eskmills