Scotland puts pressure on rest of UK over tree planting initiative

tree_planting_001Ambitious tree planting targets in Scotland are leaving the rest of the rest of the UK under pressure, as other governments must now act to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Confor, the leading UK trade body for forestry and timber, has praised the Scottish Governments announcement, that it would raise its annual target from around 22 million trees to 33 million trees by 2024-25.

Scotland’s current target is 10,000 hectares per year (about 22 million trees) – DOUBLE the 11 million trees the UK Government says it will plant in England in five years.

Last year was the worst year on record for tree planting in England and ministers have taken to using the claim that forest cover in England is at its highest since the 14th century to defend its record.

A report in late 2015 showed that the forestry and timber sector in Scotland is now worth £1 billion and supports well over 25,000 direct jobs with employee numbers rising dramatically during the economic downturn – a period of strong timber supplies due to historic planting.

We spoke to Andrew Heald, Technical Director for Confor who had the following to say:

The manifesto lists the significant opportunities of meeting planting targets and following through on the action plan:

  • JOBS AND GROWTH: Confidence in future supplies will protect jobs and investment
  • CLIMATE CHANGE: Planting trees soaks up carbon and wood products lock up carbon, making a major contribution to the Scottish Government’s world-leading climate change targets
  • REDUCING FLOOD RISKS: A growing body of research shows tree planting in the uplands can reduce downstream floods by up to 20 per cent. Confor produced a 2016 discussion on this subject
  • BETTER LAND USE: Integrating new woodland with sheep farming makes better economic and environmental sense for Scotland’s uplands, shown in a detailed independent report on the Eskdalemuir area in southern Scotland.

The five steps to deliver the range of opportunities listed in the Confor manifesto are:

  • PLANT MORE PRODUCTIVE WOODLANDS: The Scottish Government should plant 13,000ha of new woodland annually to 2022 to meet its target, with at least 8-9,000ha of productive woodland to provide timber for businesses in the future
  • IMPROVE THE FORESTRY APPLICATIONS SYSTEM: Confor wants further improvements to the Forestry Grant Scheme to speed up the approval process and remove unnecessary complexity – to make applications simpler and drive up planting
  • STIMULATE MARKETS FOR TIMBER AND WOOD: Wood is the best and most sustainable building material for the environment. Confor wants a “Wood Equal” policy so its given detailed consideration in all public building projects
  • RESTOCK PUBLIC FORESTS: The Scottish Government manages 487,000ha of forest but budget pressures are limiting restocking and investment is needed to ensure this happens during the next parliamentary meeting
  • CONTINUE TO SUPPORT TIMBER TRANSPORT: Confor welcomes the recent commitment to future funding of almost £3m per year but it is vital that this continues to take more timber off minor roads by creating forest roads and moving it by water and planning when there is no alternative to public roads

This manifesto will be handed all delegates at Confor’s Scottish conference on March 22nd, Forestry and Timber: Scotland’s Hidden Success Story and will be distributed to all political parties to share with their Holyrood election candidates.

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