Scotland's Economy

Supporting woodlands

February 1, 2017 by No Comments | Category forestry

The recent forestry debate brought Parliament together and united in its support for our woodlands which in these political times is no mean feat.

Trees cover 18% of our land and generate around £1 billion for our economy each year, so it is crucial that we do all we can to develop their potential – enhancing the forests we have now and doing more to plant the forests of the future.

We set out our commitment to taking forward ambitious planting proposals in our recent draft Climate Change Plan. The draft plan outlined that the Scottish Government will increase its annual planting target in a series of steps from 10,000 to 15,000 hectares per year by 2025.

This can help ensure long-term availability of timber and, with trees removing about 10 million tonnes of CO2 every year, it will play an important role in our efforts to tackle climate change.

Our draft budget lays out our intention to increase the financial support available for tree planting and management from £36 million to £40 million, and at every opportunity, I will look to invest more funding in planting.

While our targets have been challenging, and change won’t happen overnight, we have still seen lots of tree planting in Scotland. In fact between 2007 and 2015 the Scottish Government supported the creation of over 54,000 hectares of new woodland, with investment of more than £230 million.

And Scotland is responsible for the majority of new woodland in the UK – delivering 83% of all new planting in the UK last year.

But we must do more, and we know we need to use all the available powers and levers that we can to establish modern statutory and operational arrangements to support this valuable and growing sector.

That is why I intend to introduce a bill in this parliamentary session to complete the devolution of forestry and provide a new legislative framework.

While we have consulted on our draft proposals and are currently considering responses, I want to reach out across Parliament to offer to work with members to get this framework and these arrangements right.

As I have already said communities play an important role in our drive to develop the potential of forestry. This is crucial because the value of forestry goes far beyond our economy – it can deliver a range of health and social benefits for communities.

I would encourage communities to think about these benefits and consider whether they too can transform local land into thriving forests as I want this to be a shared national endeavour with everyone playing a role in developing our forestry.

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