DESPITE THE impact of Covid-19, Scotland’s woodland creation has continued at a good pace, with around 89% of last year's original target of 12,000 hectares achieved.

The latest figures up to March 31 indicate that 10,660 hectares of new woodland was created in 2020 – equivalent to around 21 million trees in the ground – as Scottish Forestry worked closely with woodland managers to cope with Covid restrictions, alongside periods of heavy rain and snow across most of Scotland in March 2020.

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By comparison, the combined area of new woodland generated by England, Wales and Northern Ireland was just 2750 hectares – meaning that Scotland continued to produce around 80% of all new woodland planting in the UK.

Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, Màiri McAllan, said: “Despite the significant impact of Covid-19, there has been a tremendous enthusiasm for tree planting in Scotland, and we are confident that as grant claims are made over the summer, we will meet this government’s first 100 days commitment to complete the creation of 12,000 hectares of new woodland.

“We need to build on this and create more woodlands to tackle climate change, boost our economy and improve our environment. And we must expand our forests and woodlands in a careful and considered way," said Ms McAllan.

“Future planting levels look very encouraging. Scottish Forestry has already issued approved contracts that will realise nearly 9000 hectares of new woodland this year and there are many other woodland creation proposals under development. What has been achieved is quite remarkable in the most trying and unprecedented of years. I’d like to praise the hard work of land managers and everyone else in the forest industries who have helped in the national effort and planted for Scotland.”

Of the total new woodlands planted, at least 3000 hectares were native species, meeting the commitment in the Biodiversity Strategy to plant between three and five thousand hectares of native woodland each year.

Scotland's woodland creation targets are to rise from 12,000 hectares a year to 18,000 hectares a year by 2024/25, with its existing forests and woodlands already soaking up around 9.5 million tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions each year.