THE Scottish Government has committed to planting 12,000 ha of trees over the coming year, as part of its 2019/20 programme, supported by an extra £5 million investment.

The 2019/20 programme for government also outlines measures including planting a new woodland in commemoration of the centenary of the 1919 Forestry Act and completing work responding to the Mackinnon Review of arrangements to ensure efficiency and consistency of grant making for new planting.

The formation of a stakeholder reference group to advise on the implementation plan for Scotland’s forest strategy has also been announced. The group, consisting of a range of forestry interests, intends to provide input to help formulate key delivery milestones, progress indicators and a reporting schedule for the implementation plan.

Scottish Forestry, on behalf of the Scottish Government, will co-ordinate the development of the implementation plan, which will be published by 1 April 2020.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing commented: “The strategy, which marked the beginning of a new era for forestry in Scotland, clearly sets out our far-sighted vision and ambitions for the future.

“Having smashed the planting targets for this year, we are already making progress on delivering those ambitions but forestry can and will do more. It has a pivotal role in tackling the climate emergency and steering us towards becoming a low-carbon economy, in driving forward our rural economy, and in delivering more of the health and social benefits enjoyed by communities across Scotland.

“Realising our ambitions will be a national endeavour involving partners and organisations in the public, private and third sectors, whose input into the implementation plan will help to identify what needs to be done, how each of us can best play our part and how we can evidence our actions.”

The Scottish Government’s commitment to planting more trees was welcomed by the Institute of Chartered Foresters. Executive director Shireen Chambers said: “The country has already exceeded planting targets – but the sector needs to continue to be ambitious.

“Forestry has a vital role in the face of climate change challenges and as professionals, our members are in a prime position to rise to these challenges, in both rural areas and in towns and cities.

“We also want to be working to develop the approach of appointing accredited forestry professionals to certify that woodland creation proposals meet the UK Forestry Standard.”