VIEWS ARE being sought on a new draft Forestry Strategy for Scotland which aims to make the most of the country's forestry resources.

The draft strategy sets out a long-term vision intended to "inspire and stimulate a shared national endeavour to sustainably grow more trees to enhance our woods and forests both to make a greater contribution to Scotland’s climate change ambitions and to deliver more economic benefit for years to come".

The launch of the consultation, which runs until the end of November, is a key element in the delivery of this year’s Programme for Government.

Launching the consultation at Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith, with forestry and rural skills students, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “In April next year, the forestry devolution process will have been completed and forestry in Scotland will begin a new chapter. Scottish Ministers will be fully accountable for forestry and two new forestry agencies will come into being.

“It is only fitting that we also establish a new, long-term vision for forestry that increases our woodland area and delivers more economic, social and environmental benefits whilst protecting and enhancing our forest resources so that they provide more benefits for more people in 50 to 100 years’ time.

“It is also fitting that this Strategy is being developed in Scotland’s Year of Young People because our young people will grow up with our trees, and reap the benefits for themselves and their children," said Mr Ewing. “I would encourage everyone with an interest in the future of forestry to submit their views.”

Once finalised in 2019, the strategy will act as a 10-year framework for action, concentrating on three key areas:

  • Increasing the contribution of forests and woodlands to sustainable and inclusive economic growth, especially in rural communities;
  • Protecting and enhancing Scotland’s valuable natural assets, ensuring they are resilient and contribute to a healthy high quality environment; and
  • Ensuring that more people are empowered to use forests and woodlands to improve their health, well-being and life chances.

Reacting to the launch of the draft strategy, Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall said: "Forestry is a long-term business and I welcome the pledge to develop a long-term vision for our £1 billion industry in Scotland and the 25,000-plus jobs it supports – which will continue to deliver major economic, environmental and social benefits.

"The recent Programme for Government re-affirmed the Scottish Government's ambition to plant 10,000 hectares of new woodland every year and increase this by a further 50% by 2025. Significantly, this is not just a paper target, but one that could be hit this year," he stressed.

"By planting more trees, we can create more rural jobs, lock up carbon and help the Scottish Government meet its climate change targets. We can also start to address the shocking statistic that the UK imports 80% of wood products – the second largest global net importer after China.

"Confor will submit evidence to ensure the benefits of multi-purpose modern forestry are embedded in the new strategy – and will continue to work constructively with the Scottish Government and all stakeholders to make its ambitious vision a reality. A successful long-term future for forestry and wood processing means major benefits for our Scotland's economy, environment and communities."

Speaking from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, policy officer Bruce Wilson said: “Scotland’s woodland cover is well below the European average, and native woodland makes up less than a quarter of what we do have. We believe extending woodland cover to 30% of Scotland by 2030 is achievable, and vital to tackling both biodiversity loss and climate change.

“We’re pleased to see a draft strategy that reinforces existing commitments to plant 10,000 hectares of new woodland each year and at least 15,000 hectares after 2025. Crucially, it also commits to annually planting three to five thousand hectares of native woodland.

“However, we would welcome more detail in the final strategy to show how these ambitious native woodland targets will be met, so that these new forests can build the backbone of a National Ecological Network. We also need to see ambitious landscape-scale commitments to tackling the overgrazing by deer that is holding back native woodland regeneration in much of Scotland.”