"ENORMOUS" cuts to the woodland grant budget will torpedo Scotland’s chances of meeting climate and nature targets, two leading forestry figures have said. 

Stuart Goodall, chief executive at timber industry body Confor, and Woodland Trust Scotland director Alastair Seaman have teamed up to condemn proposals for a 41 per cent drop 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, which comes at a time when the country's tree-planting rates have fallen to their lowest levels for half a decade. 

READ MORE: A £30m cut for forestry? Talk about a nightmare before Christmas

Stuart said: “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. 

Forestry Journal: Stuart Goodall said the cut would make a bad situation even worse Stuart Goodall said the cut would make a bad situation even worse

"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.”

Coming just days after a long-awaited Woodland Creation Summit was held to address Scotland's planting woes, the cut to the budget has already been seen as a body blow to forestry north of the border. Writing exclusively for Forestry Journal in the wake of the announcement, rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon confirmed the new funding would only support around 9,000 hectares of tree planting, well short of the Scottish Government's annual targets. 


And while ministers have approved a record level of woodland creation applications this century – a little over 13,000 ha – forestry leaders fear the budget shortfall will make it impossible to turn that figure into a reality. 

Alastair added: “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."

Jon Lambert, of GOLDCREST Land and Forestry Group, also criticised the move, adding: “The considerable cut to the woodland grant budget is a huge disappointment, a great shame and will have a substantial negative impact on tree planting and our ability to meet climate change mitigation targets." 

Writing in FJ last month, Ms Gougeon said: "The cut in allocation for woodland creation is not where any of us wanted to be, but now we must make the most of it." 

Forestry Journal: Mairi Gougeon last month admitted the cut was not where anyone wanted to beMairi Gougeon last month admitted the cut was not where anyone wanted to be (Image: Alan Peebles)

Responding to the fresh criticism, the MSP blamed the UK government for cutting Scotland's budget, and added: "Although Scottish Forestry has a reduced budget for woodland creation, we will work with the forest industries to maximise what resources we have to support them – meetings have already taken place to look at options.

“This funding support will not allow us to reach next year’s target, but it will still help create over 9,000 ha of new woodland.  Putting this in context, it will still allow Scotland to create more woodland than the rest of the UK combined.  And that benefits everyone in the UK, not just in Scotland.

“We all now need to focus on getting as much woodland created and trees planted within our means. We currently have record approvals for new woodland schemes and we need to concentrate in turning as many of these schemes into trees in the ground."