MORE than £30 million has been slashed from woodland-creation grant funding in Scotland as part of cuts to the public forestry sector. 

Scottish Forestry's budget for the year ahead will fall from £103.7 million to £70.1 million, deputy first minister Shona Robison confirmed on Tuesday. 

READ MORE: Scottish Forestry approves 'record number' of woodland creation applications

The blow to SF's budget largely come from woodland grant funding, with this falling from £77.2 million to just £45.4 million, a drop of £31.8 million. Elsewhere, programme and running costs has been hit by a £1.3 million reduction. 

One of the sharpest declines in the rural affairs portfolio (which saw its budget as a whole cut by £79 million), forestry's slump is partially offset by a £4 million budget rise for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). 

Paul Lowe, interim CEO at Scottish Forestry, said: “There is no doubt that this is a very challenging time for public funding but we remain 100 per cent committed to helping the forestry sector with everything we have at our disposal.

“We will need to properly assess the implications of the new Budget settlement and in doing this will be speaking with key stakeholders.

“Scottish Forestry will continue to support the forestry industries so that they can make a significant contribution to tackling climate change and nature recovery, whilst supporting our economy.”

The budget comes at a time of declining woodland creation rates in Scotland. A little over 8,000 hectares of new woodland was created in the 12 months prior to the end of March 2023, the first time that figure had fallen below 10,000 ha for half a decade.

In a bid to address the slump, SF officials have announced a series of measures, including £1 million of funding to train Scottish Forestry frontline staff. An emergency forestry summit was also held this month to get to the bottom of the planting woes. 

READ MORE: Forestry summit confirmed agreement on sector's issues. What now?

Mairi Gougeon, the rural affairs secretary, had hinted at a difficult budget for the sector when addressing delegates at the event. 

Forestry Journal: Mairi Gougeon had hinted at a difficult budget ahead for forestry Mairi Gougeon had hinted at a difficult budget ahead for forestry (Image: Supplied)

Responding to Tuesday's budget, she said: "As I made clear when I met the sector at the recent Woodland Creation Summit, forestry is a priority for the Scottish Government on a number of fronts, and will continue to be so in the future.

“I am committed to working with all forestry interests to make the best use of the budget that is now available.  I am keen that we start with turning this year’s record level of approvals into action, and getting trees in the ground before the end of March.”

Mairi Gougeon has written exclusively for Forestry Journal about the Scottish Budget. This will appear in Wednesday's A View from the Forest (previously Forestry Features) newsletter. Have it delivered to your inbox for free at 4PM by signing up here.