AROUND £1 million will be invested in the training of frontline forestry staff in Scotland in a bid to "ramp up" tree-planting levels. 

The move is part of a delivery action plan announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon to help the private and public sectors to “step up their game” on woodland creation. 

Other measures include increasing the level of support for smaller scale woodland projects, providing more advice and support for farmers, refreshed community engagement guidance and more support for riparian planting.

READ MORE: Forestry secretary calls on private sector to ‘play its part’

As of the most recent figures, planting levels have fallen year-on-year in Scotland, stagnating at around 10,000 hectares/annum and well short of its annual targets. However, it does remain number one in the UK by some distance. 

During a visit to Akre tree nursery in Kirkcaldy this week, Ms Gougeon said: “Scottish Forestry has taken action and boosted its staff numbers by 20 per cent to help meet the demand for new woodland proposals.  

"But we now need to invest in and develop this expanded team so that we can increase the speed in which we turn around woodland creation approvals. 

“I want this million pound investment in skills and training to incentivise the wider forestry industry to do more to recruit, train and support a whole new generation of forestry professionals. 

"That way we can meet our tree planting and woodland creation ambitions and create real opportunity for people in an industry and sector that is vital to all our futures, including the sort of innovation that has been introduced here at Akre tree nursery.”

Forestry Journal: Mairi Gougeon with Akre founder Renwick DrysdaleMairi Gougeon with Akre founder Renwick Drysdale (Image: Supplied)

Industry body Confor has been among those to demand Scottish ministers take action to address the country's falling planting rates, with its chief executive Stuart Goodall writing to Ms Gougeon upon her appointment to the rural affairs post. 

But the MSP has previously called for the private sector to play its part in reversing the downward woodland-creation trend, something she once again reiterated when launching the funding. 

“We know that skills and capacity in both the public and private sector is a key issue that is hampering our planting efforts, however, government can’t solve this alone," she said.