NEW figures show that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scotland delivered 80 per cent of all new tree planting in the UK last year.

The latest Forest Research statistics show that 10,860 ha of new woodland were planted between April 2019–March 2020. This fell short of the government target of 12,000 ha, which Scottish Forestry said was due to prolonged bad weather and the impact of COVID-19. It is, however, the second highest level of new woodland planted since 2001.

Things are also looking positive for next year, Scottish Forestry said, with forestry grant approvals for 2020/21 already covering 9,000 ha, and a further 7,000 ha of applications being worked on. 

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing commented on the figures: “This is an outstanding result, in what were really difficult circumstances. A very wet winter slowed planting which then came to a stop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was the right approach. No target is worth pursuing if it puts people’s lives at risk.

“So, we should celebrate and welcome this achievement. Scotland has produced the second highest planting figure in nearly 20 years and again exceeding our original planting target. This is really positive news.

“We also know that there is a healthy number of woodland creation proposals coming forward. That is important, not only because of the contribution forestry makes to the rural economy, but also for the role it plays in providing essential supplies for the wider economy. That was demonstrated during the pandemic with timber being supplied for construction and maintenance in NHS facilities and for pallets for distributing medical and food supplies.

“Forestry will also have a key role to play in our green recovery, with productive conifers and native woodland helping to lock in carbon as we continue to strive to reduce our emissions to net zero.

”I pay tribute to the staff of Scottish Forestry in delivery of these results despite COVID-19. This shows home working can be used successfully, a lesson we will heed going forward.”

Stuart Goodall, Confor CEO, said: "In the face of major challenges, this is a very good result and shows the sector is in a strong place to meet targets for 2020–21 and beyond. We are also in a strong position to play a central role in the green recovery following the enormous difficulties created by the pandemic.

"Increased tree planting helps deliver on our climate change objectives, but it also provides vital jobs and investment in our rural economy. Also, as a Confor report due out later this summer will show, all the new forests we create make a valuable contribution to promoting biodiversity."

Mr Goodall added: "We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and its agencies to return our industry to full production and to continue the expansion of the forestry and wood sector in Scotland."

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £69 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link:

Thanks – and stay safe.