A FORMER forestry secretary has said Scotland "must substantially increase productive timber plantings". 

Fergus Ewing  called on governments across the UK to work together to boost the use of wood in construction as he praised the "vitally important" sector. 

His intervention comes at a time where productive forestry has found itself facing criticism from a number of parties in Scotland. Most notably, a group of academics from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) concluded that coniferous plantations should lose access to public cash north of the border

“The timber trade sector does a great job for Scotland and is vitally important," he said. "We must substantially increase productive timber plantings and see timber used more in construction here and south of the border. 

"We should work cooperatively with the UK Government on this endeavour." 

Scotland is the only one of the four UK nations to plant more coniferous species than broadleaves, but its planting rates have fallen year-on-year in recent times.

Mr Ewing's comments came shortly after the Scottish Timber Trade Association (STTA) brought the timber industry together at Holyrood for the first time this week. 

Along with three other leading timber organisations, Confor, Timber Development UK, and the Structural Timber Association (STA), the STTA invited more than 40 businesses operating in the timber industry supply chain across Scotland to meet with MSPs and discuss timber’s role in the Scottish economy, and its place in supporting the country’s drive to Net Zero.

The reception was sponsored by Mr Ewing and his fellow MSP Willie Rennie, who each spoke about the benefits of timber as a low-carbon construction product; how timber planting, processing, and use in construction creates skilled career opportunities and supports employment in rural areas; and how Scottish Government policies on tree planting can support the long-term future of the industry.

Speaking about the event, Alex Goodfellow, EO of Offsite at the Fife-headquartered Donaldson Group and STA board member, said: “The reception was the first time the timber industry has gathered at Holyrood to discuss sustainability and how timber in construction supports the drive to Net Zero.

"Scotland excels at timber production, and we lead the UK in the use of timber frame construction, both of which support the country's economy and sustainability goals. However, more production is needed.

“Global demand for timber is increasing and we predict that based on current production levels, we will be fighting for product by 2050.

Forestry Journal: Fergus Ewing, central with cane, was among the senior figures to attend the timber industry event Fergus Ewing, central with cane, was among the senior figures to attend the timber industry event (Image: Supplied)

"There is ample scope for increasing productive woodland in Scotland and especially as we promote increased use of timber across the rest of the UK, we have a great opportunity to further support the Scottish economy through the supply of this low carbon construction product.”

Mr Rennie said: “This is an opportunity for parliamentarians to fully understand this important sector, what makes it a success and what government needs to do to allow it to make an even larger contribution to jobs and the economy.

"There’s been much talk about tree planting from ministers to tackle climate change and biodiversity which is right, but we also need to understand that for construction purposes we also need to plant the right type of trees in the right numbers and ensure the supply chain and sector is working effectively.”