AN action plan to support the creation of new woodlands in Scotland and meet ambitions targets to plant 18,000 hectares each year has been unveiled. 

Edinburgh Napier University's blueprint details how small parcels of land can become a key revenue source, while enabling the country to reach its carbon reduction targets.

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Called a 'plug and play solution', the proposals details the need to explore the potential of an ‘Allowable Offset’ scheme and establish an industry working group to explore the feasibility of tracking and certifying the end-to-end offset cycle, from planting to product.

Gail Boag, dean of the Edinburgh Napier Business School, said: “The result is a mismatch between the land currently available for tree planting and the targeted land needed to meet government targets.  To maximise the potential for planting, particularly in urban areas, the landowners of smaller plots must be motivated to act. 

“We believe that our Impact Investment Symposium’s action plan offers a 'plug and play' solution that will accelerate progress towards the Scottish Government laudable targets around carbon reduction and biodiversity, and foster a great sense of wellbeing and community spirit too.

Forestry Journal: Gail Boag Gail Boag

“Following COP26, there is clear impetus across industry sectors to work together, partnering with applied universities to help achieve net-zero through reducing source emissions and by offsetting through sequestration." 

The five-point plan in full is: 

•            Explore the potential of an ‘Allowable Offset’ scheme, where developers of new build projects in Scotland can generate funds to support new woodlands planted by social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations.

•            Establish an industry working group to explore the feasibility of tracking and certifying the end-to-end offset cycle, from planting to product.

•            Work with partners to identify ways to safely reduce existing thresholds for public funding, so that small sites can be aggregated without the incumbent administrative burden and still provide a financial reward.

•            Ensure future funding and policy encourages more new native woodland planting, to support local biodiversity and develop local nature networks

Under current plans, woodland creation will increase to 18,000 hectares a year by 2025, up from 10,660 hectares in 2020.  The most recent Scottish Government Programme for Government also commits to increase annual expansion of native woodlands which can bring particular biodiversity benefits in addition to sequestering carbon.

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The symposium’s working group worked closely with Social Enterprise Scotland and the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions in preparing its recommendations, which are supported by a number of other organisations.

Chris Martin, CEO of Social Enterprise Scotland said, “Communities across Scotland want to improve local biodiversity and new woodlands provide multiple benefits for the environment and our individual wellbeing.

"The 6,025 social enterprises in Scotland are at the heart of their communities and this initiative can help unlock the potential of small parcels of land up and down Scotland and provide diversified income streams for the enterprise, creating more sustainable organisations.”