Summit asks how Scotland’s forests can best support rural economy

11 October 2016

A summit organised by Scottish Land & Estates and Forestry Commission Scotland held a summit recently to discuss how forestry can be best used to support the country’s rural economy.

The event was held at Annandale Estates, Lockerbie. It focused on what strategies are required to deliver growth over the next two decades. Industry representatives such as ConFor, Tilhill and Egger took part, as well as those representing the wood products sector, education, the environment and government agencies and was one of a series of summits focusing on the rural economy.

Fergus Ewing MSP, cabinet secretary for rural economy and connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, addressed the summit. “The forestry sector is at the heart of many rural communities, worth £1 billion annually and supporting at least 25,000 jobs,” he said.

“This government is absolutely committed to the sector and planting more trees. Scotland created 83% of all new woodland in the UK in 2015-16 and has the most ambitious planting target in the UK of 10,000 hectares a year. This is a target I am determined to see delivered.

“New woodland creation will help strengthen forestry’s contribution to our rural economy as well as helping to meet our climate change targets. With the industry’s help, we will identify remaining barriers to growth and recommend potential actions to increase investment and boost jobs.”

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Forestry will continue to play an important part in creating growth in our rural economies and we were pleased to welcome the Cabinet Secretary and engage in a discussion about what we can all collectively do to move the sector forward.

“Like many land uses, there are challenges which inhibit the forestry sector and we need to make sure that our strategy over the next 25 years can address such difficulties. Our impending departure from the European Union does create further uncertainty but this is the optimum time to discuss the new opportunities that we would want to be created post-Brexit.

“Many Scottish Land & Estates members are delivering forestry in conjunction with recreation, such as mountain bike trails and zip wires, whilst others are making forestry work thanks to energy spin-off projects such as biomass boilers.

“The Scottish Government has clear targets on planting more trees and creating more woodland than ever before and our members are ready to play their part and deliver for rural economies in the process.”