Portfolio Questions: Rural Economy and Connectivity – 31st May 2017

(From 16:05)

6. David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage new plantings in forestry. (S5O-01044)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): The Scottish Government has taken positive action including an increase in grant funding for woodland creation of £4 million; additional funding for the timber transport fund; more attractive grant rates for native woodlands in remote areas; an increased threshold for requiring environmental impact assessment screening in low-sensitivity areas; and implementation of the Mackinnon report to streamline the planting approval process.

The result of that has been a substantial increase in the number of future woodland creation projects being developed and an enthusiastic response from across the forestry sector.

David Torrance: Is the cabinet secretary aware that Labour has committed to planting 1 million trees of native species across the UK and that the Conservatives intend to plant 11 million? How do those targets compare with the Scottish Government’s action on planting trees of native species in Scotland?

Fergus Ewing: The targets do not compare particularly favourably. Having said that, I am keen that, across the chamber, we should approach the opportunities that forestry provides in a consensual fashion and I am pleased that the Scottish Government’s target of planting 10,000 hectares per annum, rising to 15,000, is an aim that can be shared across the chamber. I was not aware that the Labour target had a specific figure, and I hope that they have got that figure right.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

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