Scotland's largest forestry management company has said it expects to plant more than 3,000 hectares of new woodlands across the country this year as it continues to invest in new staff and training programmes.

Scottish Woodlands, which provides tree planting and harvesting services to farmers and land owners, added that it sees a "positive overall outlook" for the industry despite challenging conditions in the timber market. This is particularly evident in demand for sawn logs, where competition from imports has put downward pressure on pricing.

The update came as the company posted it financial results for the year to the end of September 2023, which show a small decline in revenues to £111.6 million against £117.3m previously. Operating profit remained steady at £4.6m.

Headquartered in Edinburgh, the company has 19 offices spread mainly across Scotland but also in northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is involved in the creation of about one-third of all new woodland in Scotland, and employs more than 250 people.

Managing director Ian Robinson said although the timber market remains difficult, all other areas of the business are "strong". This includes landscaping, utility services, investment and peatland restoration.

“Scottish Woodlands Ltd continues to be healthy, vibrant and adaptable to changing market conditions," he added.

"The growing recognition of the significant environmental benefits of forestry has led to the creation of our five-strong carbon team over the last three years, with an increasing focus on peatland restoration.”

The company has bolstered its management structure since the end of September with the appointment of five regional bosses to "reflect the growth of the business". It has also grown its carbon team led by Emma Kerr with the appointment of Erin Stoll as peatland project manager.

Scottish Woodlands said its carbon assessment service has been strongly utilised as many businesses review their environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements: "Forestry and wood products can make a major contribution to the country in achieving net zero through tree planting, increased use of wood products and in energy production.”

The company expects to take six new recruits into its graduate development programme in 2024, taking the total number to 58 since the programme was launched in 2017. 

“Our graduate programme is a vital part of our business, and bolstering our management team has also been a significant move which reflects the growth in the size and the breadth of the business,” Mr Robinson said.

With history going back almost 100 years to its roots as a timber cooperative, Scottish Woodlands is today 80% owned by its employees. It runs the largest tree planting programme in the UK, and is responsible for between 30% and 40% of all new trees planted in Scotland.

This article originally appeared in our sister title, the Herald.