A radical proposal to replace grouse moors with woodlands was launched yesterday by Green politicians, who claim reforesting Scotland would create thousands of jobs.
The Scottish Greens quoted research from Revive, the anti-grouse shooting coalition, which claims forestry can provide a job per every 42 hectares, compared to one job every 330 hectares for grouse moors.
However, landowners responded that grouse moors were “unsuitable” for tree planting and pointed out that forestry was not permitted on deep peat, where many grouse moors are located.
The Greens said the latest statistics showed only 18.7% of Scotland is forested, while the European average of tree cover is 40%. In contrast, grouse shooting estates alone make up to 20% of all land in Scotland.
The Greens argue reforestation is essential in capturing carbon and tackling the climate emergency and can also provide thousands of jobs.
A report by Revive, the coalition which includes the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind, claimed forestry had ten times the job creation impact of grouse moors and 30 times the economic impact.
The plan, which is part of a Scottish Green New Deal, was launched in Inverness yesterday on the eve of Patrick Harvie’s party’s conference in the Highland capital.
Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said: “It is clear that increasing forest cover in Scotland, which is critical to address the climate emergency, would also provide quality careers in the sector.
“That’s why reforestation can bring new life to areas of rural Scotland that are too often treated like visitor attractions rather than real communities.”
Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer said: “The Scottish School of Forestry shows that forestry careers require a level of expertise that is not yet being met across the country.”
The Revive document “Back to Life: Visions of Alternative Futures for Scotland’s Grouse Moors was compiled in conjunction with the independence supporting Common Weal think-tank.
The report maintains that woodlands can be developed on land that is not suitable for agriculture. But Scottish Land and Estates, the body representing landowners, said many grouse moors were not compatible with tree-planting.
Eleanor Kay, Policy Adviser (Agriculture & Forestry) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We are hugely supportive of increased woodland targets and many rural businesses have already increased forestry cover on their land.
“However, it is important that forestry planting is undertaken according to a strategy of the right tree in the right place. Many areas of land are unsuitable for planting, including some farmland and grouse moors.
“Our UK uplands store five billion tonnes of carbon in peat soil – more than all the forests of Britain and France. Forestry would not be permitted on deep peat, which many grouse moors are, where the peat layer is deeper than 50cm.”