A new plan to streamline the tree planting process in Scotland will be a powerful catalyst for delivering the ambitious tree planting targets recently announced by the Scottish government in its draft climate change plan.
The tree planting targets are to be raised on a stepped basis from the current 10,000ha a year to 15,000ha a year by 2025.
The increase in planting will grow this crucial forest carbon sink, helping the fight against climate change, as well as creating economic growth and protecting jobs, mostly in rural areas.
The delivery plan, announced today by rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing, contains a package of measures to drive forward and speed up the tree planting process.
During a visit to a recently planted woodland site in West Lothian, Mr Ewing said:
“Forestry in Scotland is a real success story contributing £1 bn each year to the Scottish economy and supporting 25,000 jobs. We can build on this success.
“Whilst tree planting has enormous benefits for the economy, it is also very important environmentally – soaking up about 10 million tonnes of CO2 each year. Trees are a win win natural asset for Scotland.
“The actions within this new delivery plan will create a welcome step change in meeting our tree planting targets. This is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for Scotland’s communities.”
The publication of the delivery plan also coincides with another record breaking round of planting approvals. Forestry Commission Scotland has just approved 96 woodland proposals, covering 1,300ha of new woodland creation and totaling £5.5 m. This is the largest area of woodland creation to be approved in a single clearing round since the Forestry Grants Scheme opened in October 2015.
The plan is a direct response to recommendations from Jim Mackinnon CBE, who was commissioned by Scottish Government, to explore the current arrangements for forest planting approval processes.
Jo O’Hara, head of forestry commission Scotland added: “Forestry in Scotland is going through a very exciting and dynamic period, with significant growth in activity in both planting and harvesting.”
“I am very grateful for the fresh insight that Jim Mackinnon has brought to the processes we use to stimulate and regulate woodland creation in Scotland, drawing on his unparalleled experience in the planning system. “This delivery plan provides a clear roadmap for the whole sector, to revitalise and streamline the process for woodland approvals so we can continue to grow and achieve the new targets. I look forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders across the sector to drive forward the recommendations in the report.”
The ambition of the plan is to remove unnecessary barriers, identify opportunities and ensure that regulation is proportionate. Along with funding for the popular forestry grant scheme and other measures currently being planned, this latest plan demonstrates the strong commitment of the government to the continued expansion of sustainable productive forestry in Scotland.