Enormous cuts to the woodland grant budget will torpedo Scotland’s chances of meeting climate and nature targets, Confor and Woodland Trust Scotland said today.
The timber industry body and woodland conservation charity teamed up to condemn proposals for a massive 41% cut in the money available to support woodland creation and management through the Forestry Grant Scheme.
Following last month’s budget announcement by Finance Secretary Shona Robison MSP, Scottish Forestry is facing a cut of over £32 million from its grant budget.
Stuart Goodall, Confor CEO stated, “The Scottish Government has increased its woodland creation targets annually as a key element of Scotland’s commitment to be net zero by 2045, and we applaud that ambition. The amount of new woodland created has fallen over each of the last five years however. This proposed cut will only serve to make the gap between targets and delivery ever wider. A bad situation will become worse.”
Confor and Woodland Trust Scotland understand that over 14,000 hectares of new woodland creation has been approved for the current year, and that the reduced funding in the budget for 2024/25 will support only around 9,000 hectares (the grass pitch at Murrayfield Stadium is about one hectare).
In recent years there has been significant investment by the public, private and charitable sectors in people, young trees and equipment. A cut of the scale proposed will lead to job losses in struggling rural areas, destruction of millions of young trees and a blow to sector confidence that will take a long time to recover.
Alastair Seaman, Director of Woodland Trust Scotland, said, “The Scottish Government must remember that warm words won’t stop climate change or restore nature. We need investment in new woodland – and fast – if we are to have any hope of a strong economy and a healthy landscape in the years to come.
“Creating new woodland and protecting what we’ve already got is one of the simplest and most effective responses we have to the climate and nature crises. It makes no sense to pull the rug out from under the sector in this way.
“On behalf of the thousands of members from both organisation who are committed to increasing planting in Scotland we are calling on members of the Rural Affairs Committee to recommend to the Cabinet Secretary that these proposed cuts are reversed.”