Hume welcomes new guidelines on forestry

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RECOMMENDED restrictions on forestry planting on farmland have been welcomed by local MSP Jim Hume, writes Sally Gillespie.

The former Yarrow farmer was reacting to the Scottish Government’s acceptance of guidelines suggested by the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG).

He said: “The type of land that is favoured for tree planting is commonly hill farm type land or moorland, which makes up a significant fraction of the Borders farming community.

“Parts of the Ettrick valley have been particularly affected by tree planting in recent years which is causing concern that the rural economy and landscape will be changed forever, losing traditional farming methods and skills.

“I welcome the recognition of the need for a sensible balance and the Scottish Government must now ensure that a proper balance is achieved.”

The National Farmers Union of Scotland’s policy director, Jonnie Hall, who sat on the WEAG, said: “The adoption of the WEAG report is a significant step with important principles, notably the presumption against whole-farm planting and the protection of a critical mass of farmland and the better land classes, which will allow a viable future for the extensive and moorland areas in Scotland’s Less Favoured Areas.”

But he cautioned: “The recommendations will mean nothing without proactive catchment-level and regional planning processes.”

Ettrick valley residents have been concerned by the number of farms lost to forestry over recent years.

From a reported 23 farms in the area 50 years ago, 10 remain with three being ploughed for trees and concerned local councillor Vicky Davidson and sheep farmers met the then Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead over the issue last year.