Report aims to break down barriers over tree planting A new report published today by the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group states that Scotland needs to give woodland creation a new direction by promoting integration and breaking down barriers.
The report, which has 24 recommendations, says an increase in new woodlands is needed, but this needs to be done in a more inclusive and integrated way in order to minimise conflict with other land uses, such as farming.
The Group recommends focussing on the Government's existing short-term target of 100,000 hectares of new woodland over the next 10 years. It recognises that, without buy-in from all land based sectors, the longer term aspiration of 25 per cent woodland cover could act as a barrier to progress.
While highlighting that new woodlands bring many environmental and social benefits, the report emphasises the need to design more woodlands to support the production of timber and the use of wood for fuel.
Chair of the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group, Dr Andrew Barbour, presented the report to the Cabinet Secretary of Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, at the Royal Highland Show today.
Dr Barbour said:
"Woodland expansion through public money has to get the balance right between Government policy objectives and private interests too. If we all are to get the benefits from tree planting, we need to break down old cultural barriers and bring the land-based industries closer together so that they work in a more integrated way. This is especially true with farming and forestry.
"When we studied the potential impacts of planting 100,000 hectares of woodland over the next 10 years and then looked at the effect on livestock, we found that there is scope to maintain livestock output while achieving the woodland creation that we want.
"We have therefore concentrated our report on how we can deliver this integration to get the best for everyone. In particular, we have looked at the barriers that people face when planting new woodlands and we make recommendations on how these can be reduced or removed.
"The report is very wide ranging and I am grateful for all the contributions of the Group's members and everyone else who sent us their views and took part in the consultation meetings around the country. All of us on the group found this part of the process very useful and rewarding. I believe we have made a series of practical and realistic recommendations based on a new and positive approach to taking forward woodland creation in Scotland. "
The Woodland Expansion Advisory Group was set up back in August 2011 and signalled the first step in the delivery of the Scottish Government's Land Use Strategy. The formation of the Group had its roots in the failure in recent years to meet the planting targets that Government had set, coupled to rising concerns from the farming community in particular about the potential impact of woodland expansion on agriculture.
The Group was made up of 19 representatives from the forestry, farming, conservation, community and environment sectors. Its job was to identify which types of land are best for tree planting in Scotland and report back to Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment.
On receiving the report, Mr Lochhead said:
"Forestry will play a key part in Scotland's low-carbon future, making an important contribution to reducing net green house gas emissions from rural land use. It also brings in £670 million each year to our economy and supports 31,000 jobs, many of these in rural areas.
"Tree planting is certainly a good thing and we need more trees in the ground to get the benefits woodland expansion brings. Am I pleased to see the recently published figures for tree planting in Scotland showing that last year we created 9,000 hectares of new woodland, a healthy jump from 5,100 hectares the year before. This demonstrates that we are getting very close to our target of 10,000 hectares per year.
“However, it is crucial that this new planting is carried out in a way which reduces conflict - we need to bring land based industries together, rather than pull them apart.
"I would like to thank all the members of the Group for the huge amount of work they have put into this report. I am also grateful to everyone, from a wide variety of backgrounds, who took the trouble to attend public meetings, or write to the Group expressing their views.
“It is vital that we get our approach to woodland expansion right as decisions taken now have such a profound impact on future land use in Scotland. I much look forward to studying the report - and, of course, I will consider the recommendations very carefully before reaching a view on the best way forward."
A response to the report is expected from Mr Lochhead later in the Autumn this year.
Other recommendations made by the Group include:
- encouraging foresters to work more closely with the farming community to make sure that woodland creation fits with agriculture;
- cutting the red tape in the grants process and using the next SRDP to promote more integration between farming and forestry;
- adopting better strategic processes to get "the right trees in the right place";
- doing more to offer advice and training for farmers interested in woodland creation on their land; and
- involving more people in woodland creation - including crofters, tenants and local communities.
The full report is available online at www.forestry.gov.uk/weag.