THE Scottish forestry sector is set to benefit from a £160 million boost as part of Scotland's 2020/21 Programme for Government.

An additional £100 million was announced for Scottish Forestry to increase new planting, alongside £30 million to Forestry and Land Scotland to expand national forests and land.

A further £20 million has also been allocated to increase the supply of young trees.

Planting targets will also increase to 18,00 ha per year in 2024-25.

The new £10 million Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme (SACGS) is also offering grants of up to £20,000 to farmers and crofters to purchase new equipment. The pilot programme will run for five weeks.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “We are determined to build back better after coronavirus  with a green recovery, and Scotland’s rural economy will be at the heart of this.

“Having created more than 22,000 hectares of new woodland in the last two years, we are continuing to invest in nature-based solutions to climate change. The forestry sector makes a huge contribution to the rural economy – over £1 billion Gross Value Added and 25,000 jobs. This demonstrates the scale of activity in Scotland’s forests, and the potential for making a significant contribution to the green recovery.

“Forestry is not only an important natural resource, it provides spaces to improve personal health and wellbeing, and an ambitious programme of planting can contribute towards Scotland’s net-zero commitments.

“We know farmers and crofters want to contribute to our climate change ambitions and to cut their emissions and farm more sustainably. Helping them to change their practice by ensuring they have access to the right equipment, tools and knowledge is key. The new £10 million Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme will provide support to do this.

“These investments will also help support and create jobs and opportunities across the rural economy, including in remote and island communities.”

The plans have been welcomed by forest industry body Confor. Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor, said: “The announcement of significant extra funding for forestry in the Programme for Government is great news for our environment and our economy. 

“The commitment to increase Scotland’s woodland creation target to 18,000 hectares in 2024/25 shows real ambition and a growing recognition of the importance of Scotland’s forestry sector for the country’s green recovery, its future prosperity and its net zero ambitions.

“And it’s excellent to see the related ambition to increase the use of Scottish wood in construction from 2.2 million cubic metres (2018) to 2.6 million cubic metres in 2021/2022.”

Mr Goodall added: “With around 90 per cent of new tree planting being done by the private sector, the onus will be on Confor’s member businesses to deliver these ambitions facilitated by further improvements to the current grant scheme. 

"As the planting target goes beyond the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament, Confor is calling on all parties ahead of next year’s election to incorporate the same level of ambition into their own policy platforms – to give certainty of support to businesses in delivering economic growth and environmental benefit.

“With the UK Government aiming for 30,000 hectares of new woodland creation by 2025, it is clear that Scotland will continue to deliver the vast majority of this. This positive statement of purpose puts the onus very firmly on the  other countries in the UK to deliver their part of the overall target."

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