Tree planting has become the latest green battleground ahead of next week's general election with all major parties unveiling pledges to increase numbers to help tackle the climate crisis.
The SNP declared today it would plant 36 million trees in Scotland by 2030 – and called on the next UK Government to match the party’s "record and ambition" on the issue.
The commitment was signed by Holyrood rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing, Deidre Brock - the Nationalist candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith - and Confor, the trade body representing forestry businesses.
Labour made headlines last week when it declared it would plant two billion trees across the UK by 2040. Meanwhile, the Conservatives said they would plant at least 30 million more trees every year - a pledge roughly in line with a recommendation from the UK Government's official climate advisers.
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The Scottish Government claims it is leading the way in the UK on tree planting – with Scotland planting 22 million trees last year alone and making up nearly 84 per cent of the UK’s mainland tree planting last year, and funding for tree planting and forestry has dropped sharply in England by 43% in 2017-18.
Analysis by the BBC found the year to March 2019, the number of trees planted across the UK went up: 13,400 hectares of new woodland was planted. Most of it was in Scotland (11,200 hectares), while there was actually a decrease in planting in England.
These UK-wide figures are actually far below where they were in the late 1980s - when about 30,000 hectares were planted every year.
Ms Brock, the SNP's environment spokeswoman at Westminster before parliament was dissolved, said: “The SNP is committed to working with Confor as the industry body to drive up planting rates further - and to urge the next UK government to step up and match the SNP’s record and ambition on tree planting.
“While other party manifestos outline ambitions, Scotland under the SNP is the only place where we are truly making it happen - and where we can say with confidence that the targets we are setting are achievable.
“This is one of the most important general elections in Scotland’s history and climate change will be one of the biggest challenges for any incoming government in Westminster. Only a vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit, and to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands so we can tackle the climate emergency head on without the continued chaos and constraints of Westminster.”
Stuart Goodall, CEO of Confor, said: "Scotland’s success is based on a combination of political leadership, joined-up policy (linking planting to climate change mitigation and greater use of wood), plus simpler procedures for tree planting application and approval. Close co-operation between politicians, the industry and all other industry stakeholders has also been crucial.”