Forestry in Scotland now a billion-pound industry

Forestry and wood is now a billion-pound industry in Scotland and the number of jobs in the sector has almost doubled in less than a decade, a new report has revealed.

It is believed one tree is harvested every minute but there are concerns revenue will dip unless new stock is planted soon. Picture: Contributed

More than 25,000 people are now employed in forestry and linked jobs in tourism and wildlife management, compared to 13,500 in wood processing when the last report was compiled in 2008.

As well as a peak in wood available for harvest, world-class sawmills are turning out top-quality products to push back against imports in the UK, said the Forestry Commission Scotland report, being launched today.

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Industry bodies say a tree is now being harvested every minute.

While the industry has increased from £670 million to nearly £1 billion contribution to the economy, the long-term future will dip unless new trees are planted soon.

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of CONFOR, the trade association which promotes wood and forestry, said there were another 10-15 years of growth in the sector ahead, but the late 2030s to 2060s would decline without effective planning.

He said: “The sooner we can plant more new forest, the better.

The cycle is both a weakness and a strength. We cannot just plant and harvest quickly, but we can also plan ahead. For us, it’s about legacy.”

There are now more than 19,500 people working in forest management and processing, mostly located in rural areas and enabling growth in other sectors including energy, construction, tourism and biotechnology.

Exports in the report said forestry was now an employment bedrock in areas like Dumfries and Gallowway, with complex supply chains and well-paid jobs. Speaking at a meeting with forestry leaders later today, Environment Minister 
Dr Aileen McLeod will officially launch the new report. She said it was important to remember that forestry also contributes to mitigating climate change and the health and well-being of Scots.

Dr McLeod said: “Scottish forestry is very much a hidden success story.”