Planting the roots for Scotland’s Covid-19 recovery

Scotland has delivered more than 80 per cent of all new tree planting in the UK, despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus.

By Julie Currie
Saturday, 20th June 2020, 4:45 pm
Native tree planting...at Loch Katrine has helped Scotland lead the way in the UK.
Native tree planting...at Loch Katrine has helped Scotland lead the way in the UK.

Some 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 9000 hectares and a further 7000 hectares of applications being worked on.

Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy Secretary, said: “This is an outstanding result in 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. It 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.”

The yearly target for native woodland creation was achieved with 4529 hectares being created – around 42 per cent of all the new woodland in Scotland.

And that 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 per cent of the total land mass area and the ambition contained in the Scottish Government’s forestry strategy is to increase it to 21 per cent by 2032.