Scotland delivers nearly 80% of UK new planting

A marked increase in the yearly tree planting figures has been described as “very encouraging” by Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing.

Figures just released today show that 7,100 hectares of new woodland was planted during 2017/18, a rise of 2,300 hectares from the previous year. This means that Scotland was responsible for 78% of new woodland creation in the UK last year.

Around 60 per cent is ‘productive’ planting – specifically aimed at growing sustainable timber. This is the highest level since 2000, and is crucial in supporting the sustainable growth of Scotland’s home-grown timber processors, who have been investing heavily in recent years in places such as the extended Norbord plant at Dalcross near Inverness.  

The new planting figures would have been higher but extreme winter weather delayed over 800 hectares of planting until later in the year, too late to be included in the reporting period. 

In spite of this large rise, the annual target of planting 10,000 hectares each year has not been reached. However, plans and approvals already made for more tree planting in 2018 suggest that figures will be higher still for the current year.

Mr Ewing said:

“This marked increase in tree planting across Scotland is very welcome news.

“Obviously I want to see us achieving our ambitious planting target and perhaps if we hadn’t had such a sustained period of unseasonal extreme weather, we would have been very close.

“But we are still leading the way in creating woodland in the UK, planting significantly more trees than any other nation. And with the completion of all the actions in the Mackinnon review, and intensive work with all parts of the sector, confidence is high, and next year is looking very promising indeed.

“We’ve supported a good mix of woodland types, with 40% native and over 4,000 hectares of productive planting, the highest productive level since the year 2000.  There is a renewed buzz and confidence in the industry and I am confident that our planting levels will continue to rise in future years.”

In last year’s spending review, Mr Ewing increased the 2018/19 Forestry Grants Scheme budget from £40m to £46m to enable more woodland and tree planting projects to go ahead next planting season.

The year-long Mackinnon review of the tree planting approval process was carried out last year resulting in a streamlining of the procedures.  Combined with an improved Forestry Grants Scheme, the conditions for planting of all types of woodland have been greatly improved.

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of CONFOR added:

“I’m heartened to see this increase, especially the proportion of productive trees planted which are so vital to support Scotland’s important forestry and wood processing industry. We now need to press on and ensure we meet and exceed 10,000 hectares a year to support rural jobs and lock up carbon.”

Substantial woodland creation activity is already underway across Scotland, with many people involved, including farmers, community groups, private individuals and investors as well as forest nurseries and forestry contracting businesses.

Already, over 9,000 ha of private sector schemes have been approved for 2018 and Forest Enterprise Scotland expects to create around 650ha on the National Forest Estate. A further 2,500ha of schemes have been submitted to Forestry Commission Scotland for consideration.

The current 10,000 ha a year woodland creation target remains until 2020-2021 when there will be a stepped increase to 15,000 ha by 2024-2025.

The UK wide National Statistics Woodland Area, Planting and Publicly Funded Restocking: 2018 Edition is available here.

Notes to editors

1. Scotland planted 78% of new planting within the UK, England 17%, Wales 3% and Northern Ireland 2%. England planted 1,500 ha this year and Wales and Northern Ireland planted around 200 ha each.

2. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.

3. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus bidh e a’ toirt seachad comhairle air poileasaidhean coilltearachd agus air riaghladh. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta as leth Ministearan na h-Alba.

4. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6508 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.