A move to support Scotland’s forests and woodlands will mark the “start of a new era”, the Rural Economy Secretary has said.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Fergus Ewing announced the launch of Scotland’s Forest Strategy, which aims to secure the long-term future of the sector.
Mr Ewing suggested the strategy, developed in consultation with a range of organisations, will provide a “vision for the future” of forestry in the country.
“I have a clear ambition for forestry – I want Scotland to have more trees and woodlands,” Mr Ewing said.
“This strategy signals the start of a new era for forestry in Scotland.
“We build on the success of over 100 years of effective stewardship and growth in forestry and woodlands.
“The UK Forestry Act of 1919 laid the foundations for the thriving Scottish forest and woodlands sector that we enjoy today.
“Scotland’s forestry strategy sets out our vision for the future.”
Mr Ewing indicated that by 2070, the target is for Scotland to have more forests and woodlands, which are sustainably managed and better integrated with other land uses.
He also said a national group would be established to advise on implementation, alongside two new forestry agencies (Scottish Forestry and Forestry & Land Scotland).
A process will also be developed to allow for the progress of the strategy to be monitored, with the charting of any actions taken and the impact they have had.
The strategy received cross-party support in the Parliament, with Labour MSP Rhoda Grant suggesting there was “nothing to disagree with”, although she did call for further details on how the proposals would be implemented.
Scottish Green MSP John Finnie said his party welcomed the strategy and described it as a “positive document”.
Scottish Liberal Democrats MSP Mike Rumbles called the strategy “the right way forward” and wished Mr Ewing well in implementing it.
The strategy also received support from the Scottish Conservatives, with Donald Cameron MSP saying: “We broadly support its principles, its ambitions and its focus on a sustainable forestry sector.”
Woodland Trust Scotland director Carol Evans suggested the strategy would help to maintain the balance of Scotland’s woodlands.
“Woods and trees are at the heart of what makes Scotland’s landscape and environment truly special,” Ms Evans said.
“This new strategy should help all of us better manage and maintain our existing woodland.
“It should also ensure that we are planting enough native trees in the right places to look after the wildlife that depends on them, and to meet our national biodiversity targets.”
She added: “We are grateful to Forestry Commission Scotland for acting on what they heard during their consultation on the strategy.
“The new implementation framework should make it clear exactly how to make the strategy’s vision a reality, and the new national stakeholder group will definitely provide invaluable support for everyone working to deliver the strategy’s outcomes.
“Throughout the process we were struck that this was a genuine, open and honest consultation and the Scottish Government listened and engaged with the feedback they received.”