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Woodlands in Scotland: who is planting them and why? By Victor Clements

Introduction From 1971, almost 50 years ago, we have very good information on the public and private contributions to tree planting in Scotland, the proportions of conifer and broadleaved woods, and the total area created. This article looks at the new woods being created, as opposed to woods that are felled and have to be restocked. The information is published annually in June by the Forestry Commission and is generally held to be consistent and reliable. Many people involved in shooting have strong opinions on trees and woodlands, and an effort is made here to put current efforts in perspective, to look at why people plant trees, and how this is likely to pan out in the future. What area of woodland is being planted? For the past two years, there has been less than 5000 ha of new trees planted in Scotland. This is very low by recent historical

Hazel shoot


standards, with over 30,000 ha being planted in the early 1970’s, 20,000 in the 1980’s and around 12,000 through much of the 1990’s. The Scottish Government now have a target planting target of 15,000 ha annually, three times what is currently planted. It was in 1990, nearly thirty years ago, when this higher target was last achieved, and the 10,000 ha target we have had from 2008 has never been met either. Part of the reason for this is that enough funding has never been provided. The application process puts many people off, although the importance of this is probably over-stated. There is certainly a lack of capacity for planting trees in Scotland. Changing grant schemes and conditions make it difficult for nurseries to risk growing more seedlings, fencing contractors and digger drivers have to take a considerable risk investing in machinery when work can often be boom and burst with too much in some years, too little in others. The actual planting is the easy and most flexible part

of the process. To hit the 15,000 ha target, ScotGov will need to make more money available, and install confidence in people that a consistent approach is being taken which allows potential contractors to plan for the future. What sort of trees are being planted? Up until 1989, almost all trees being planted in Scotland were conifers. When better grant support was offered for broadleaves, the area planted then increased, with broadleaves overtaking conifers in 2001, and staying there until 2017, when the funding for broadleaves was cut. This cut has now been reversed. In the past few years, over 70% of trees being planted in Scotland have been broadleaves, much to the frustration of the timber industry. Who is planting trees? Fifty years ago, the Forestry Commission and the private sector (forestry companies plus farms/ estates) where planting at similar

Planted trees

levels. Forestry Commission planting declined steadily to almost zero in 1999, and stayed at almost zero until 2009. Since then, they have been contributing around 1000 ha a year again. The private sector planting increased very rapidly during the 1980’s, then collapsed after tax changes, and then declined steadily to 2011 or so. There was a modest resurgence, which has since fallen away again. Why are people planting trees? This is a good question, with government and farmers/ landowners having different motivations. The 15,000 ha was originally put forward by the then Scottish executive in 2006. Their rationale was to increase the timber resource to maintain production and employment in to the future, to diversity the range of habitats and landscapes that we have, and also to try and help the health agenda in Scotland by encouraging people to get out in to the countryside and walk more, especially in the Central

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Shooting Scotland Magazine (October - November 2017)  

Shooting Scotland Magazine (October - November 2017)