A £1 MILLION woodland-creation scheme at Woodland Trust Scotland’s Gleann Shìldeag estate in Torridon was launched last week with a community planting day for local families. 

But celebrations at the conservation charity were overshadowed by the prospect of a massive grant cut which will make such initiatives less likely in future. 

Ben Shìldeag currently hosts a pine rainforest on one flank with a birch rainforest on another, covering a total area of 100 hectares – the equivalent of 100 Murrayfield pitches. 

Forestry Journal: Ben Shìldeag currently hosts a pine rainforest on one flank with a birch rainforest on anotherBen Shìldeag currently hosts a pine rainforest on one flank with a birch rainforest on another (Image: John Macpherson/WTML)

Government grants totalling £1,017,071.27 over five years will fund planting on a further 260 ha with Woodland Trust Scotland self-funding an additional 86 ha.   

In total, nearly half a million native trees will be planted – mostly Scots pine, birch and willow but also including oak, aspen, alder, hazel and juniper. Almost all the trees being planted will be grown on from seed which has been collected on or immediately around the site so the saplings will be suited to local conditions.  

The grant will make a significant contribution to the costs of the trees, tree planting, ground preparation and protection measures. It also includes an annual maintenance payment for five years to ensure the successful establishment of the new woodland. 

Woodland Trust Scotland director Alastair Seaman said: “This is just the sort of woodland creation the country needs if we are to counter the climate and nature emergencies. 

"The Scottish Government intends to cut £32 m or 41 per cent from the grant budget. That will make schemes like this less likely in future. The Scottish Government has said rainforest expansion and restoration is a key priority. This cut threatens our ability to deliver that.”

Public money is needed as a catalyst before large scale woodland creation happens, the WTS says. This has been the case for over a century since Britain’s lack of trees was identified as a problem after WWI. Whether it is a commercial spruce plantation, a native woodland such as Ben Shieldaig or a shelter belt on a farm or croft, this public money comes to land managers in Scotland today via the Forestry Grant Scheme which also supports ongoing woodland management.

Alastair continued: “Planting proposals with merit should be getting the go-ahead. They should not have to compete over a dwindling grant pot. The future wellbeing of our country and the planet are at stake. 

Forestry Journal: Local families came together for a day of planting Local families came together for a day of planting (Image: John Macpherson/WTML)

“Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. Woods and forests absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries. The entire ecosystem plays a role, including the living wood, roots, leaves, deadwood, surrounding soils and associated vegetation. 


“The Scottish Government has stated its ambition is to create 18,000 hectares of new woodland in the 2024/25 financial year. It is budgeting for a grant pot that will support half of that. It will fall short of its woodland creation target next year and be on a trajectory to fall far short of its target to achieve 21 per cent woodland cover by 2032. Net zero by 2045 becomes little more than a fantastical dream. Warm words, bold targets and admirable ambitions will not stop climate change unless backed by appropriate investment.”

The Scottish Government will set its budget on February 27. Woodland Trust Scotland and industry body Confor are seeking an urgent meeting with rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon.