Research article

Creating a future resource

Progress on new planting targets and ongoing opportunities

There is little doubt that in Scotland the current Government's aspirations put forestry high up the agenda, mainly due to climate change targets, outlined in the Climate Change Plan, as part of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

There is also a recognition of the positive contribution that forestry makes to the rural economy, through increased new planting, along with timber harvesting and marketing activity based on the extensive plantings in the 1970s and 1980s.

What is still lacking, however, is a real strategy to support this development and to integrate it with the other land uses which have a stake in rural Scotland. The Scottish Forestry Strategy was produced in 2006 and despite updates is now out of kilter with the new aspirations.

Encouragingly, there is a commitment to the delivery of a new Scottish Forestry Strategy, which is required by the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill and which will be in place by April 2019.

As momentum for planting builds, so does concern about alternative land-use in traditional stock rearing areas. It is hoped that this new inclusive strategy will go some way to alleviating the apprehension of the agricultural sector in the increasing expansion of forestry planting.

Increase in planting numbers

The outcome of the greater push for forestry in Scotland has resulted in a significant increase in planting figures, and over the past 12 months it is likely some 8,000 hectares of planting will be approved, which is 2,000 hectares up on the previous period.

When taken along with the public sector planting carried out by the Forestry Commission at 900 hectares, we are heading in the right direction to achieve the current target of 10,000 hectares per annum, and, importantly, for the processing sector, this is also close to the target of being 60% productive conifer (see Figure 7).

Figure 7

FIGURE 7New planting levels

Source: kamaco Research, Forestry Commission and Scottish Woodlands

In England, the long-term aim of forestry expansion is to see an increase from 10% woodland cover (2017) to 12% woodland cover by 2060, some 260,000 hectares or roughly 6,000 ha per annum. With the Government having “reset the clock” on the much promoted 11 million trees in the period of the Government (now June 2017-2022) there seems to be some disparity in these figures which suggest delivery of 800-1,000 hectares per annum.

Despite some excellent large schemes gaining approval in late 2017, this would appear to be an uphill battle. The recent announcement of the ‘Northern Forest’, a 50 million tree, 25-year project to establish woodland along the M62 corridor will undoubtedly help.

Planting targets in Wales, under the Woodlands for Wales Action Plan, are pegged at a short-term aspiration of 2,000 hectares per annum up to 2020, having been closer to 5,000 hectares per annum under the Climate Change Strategy for Wales.

With new planting in 2014/15 and 2015/16 being less than 100 hectares per year and in 2016/17 some 400 hectares, there is a considerable way to go on these targets and it is clear that the aim of establishing 100,000 hectares of new woodland between 2010 and 2030 is unachievable.

Significant task ahead

So, while planting outcomes are currently close to the aspirational targets in Scotland, there is a significant task ahead for other areas to reach their stated planting objectives and land availability and high prices will hinder this process.

Funding will also play a vital role in a post-Brexit rural landscape with a high likelihood that money available will be challenged to meet an ever widening range of objectives.

Other articles within this publication

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Key contacts

Simon Smith

Simon Smith

Senior Director
Research & Consultancy

Two Exchange Square

+852 2842 4573


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