New figures published show that despite the COVID-19 challenges, Scotland delivered over 80 per cent of all new tree planting in the UK.
In total, 10,860 hectares of new woodland were planted, the second highest level since 2001. That means that nearly 22 million more trees were planted in Scotland last year.
COVID-19 and prolonged bad weather meant significant disruption to the planting season and put the new target of 12,000 hectares just out of reach.
But with tree planting able to get back on track in Phase 1 of the route map out of lockdown, progress is being made, with forestry grant approvals for 2020/21 already covering 9,000 hectares, with a further 7,000 hectares of applications being worked on.
Commenting on the figures, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:
“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.”
The yearly target for native woodland creation was achieved with 4,529 hectares being created, around 42 per cent of all the new woodland in Scotland.
All of the new woodland will make an important contribution to tackling the global climate emergency. Around 9.5 million tonnes of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere from Scotland’s forests each year.
Scotland’s forests cover 18.8 % of the total land mass area and the ambition contained in Scottish Government’s forestry strategy is to increase this to 21 % by 2032.
A mixture of an improved and streamlined applications process following implementation of the Mackinnon report, more promotion and better grant packages have helped boost tree planting across Scotland.
The Scottish Government, as part of their climate change commitments, has already upped the planting targets for the future, rising to 15,000 ha a year from 2024/25.
The Woodland area, planting and publically funded restocking to March 2020 statistics can be found here.