Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our Latest from the Woods newsletter (previously Forestry Latest News ), which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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IT'S rare to find one issue that unites foresters, but fair play to the Scottish Government for doing just that. In cutting public forestry's budget by an "enormous" £32 million, ministers have managed to put an end to age-old grudges and long-standing rivalries. 

The news, delivered just days before Christmas and barely a week after the Scottish Woodland Creation Summit, has brought private investors and left-leaning campaigners together. It's seen contractors agree with one another. Heck, it even unified Confor and the Woodland Trust Scotland, both singing off the same hymn sheet on this one. 

And the reaction shows no signs of abating just yet. 

“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," said Jon Lambert, of GOLDCREST Land & Forestry Group, adding his voice to the growing anger. “In recent years, all political parties have been at pains to support ambitious annual tree-planting targets and there is a great appetite from landowners, land occupiers and investors to plant more trees.

Forestry Journal: Jon Lambert questioned the use of public money to buy an estate Jon Lambert questioned the use of public money to buy an estate (Image: Supplied)

"However, the last 18 months have seen more and more challenges in the form of landscape demand, local opposition, archaeological interest, perceived issues with birds and now we face this budget cut, a most unwelcome development." 

"It is immensely frustrating that just the following week [after the Woodland Creation summit] a decision was taken to slash support for afforestation," added John Clegg & Co's Simon Hart, bemoaning the timing of the news. "And not just by a bit.

"Times are tough and hard choices need to be made, but as we face a biodiversity and climate crisis, reducing the spend on afforestation by 40 per cent just seems wrong and misguided on many levels."


Comments from concerned foresters could fill this newsletter from now until 2028, but there was another point raised by Jon that may raise some eyebrows. 

“Furthermore, it should be noted that Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) paid £17.6m of taxpayers' money for Glenprosen Estate in 2022 when there were private sector buyers who were also keen to buy the property for tree planting. I can’t help thinking that money would have been better being made available for grants.”

Food for thought, even if FLS is an entirely separate organisation to Scottish Forestry, the one that has had its budget butchered. 

In response to Jon's suggestion, an FLS spokesperson said: “We make strategic purchases of land that further enhance our capacity to deliver across multiple objectives, such as with Glenprosen, which as a link with neighbouring parcels of land, gives us the opportunity to make a positive difference at a landscape scale.

Forestry Journal: Mairi Gougeon has admitted the new budget will only result in 9,000 ha of new woodland Mairi Gougeon has admitted the new budget will only result in 9,000 ha of new woodland (Image: Alan Peebles)

“FLS is a separate Scottish Government agency from Scottish Forestry. Our roles and remits differ and there is no cross-over between each organisation’s budgets.”

Mairi Gougeon, the rural affairs secretary, said: “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."