(Image: FJ)

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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WHAT do more than 300 visitor destinations, over 750 miles of waymarked trails, more than 300 miles of promoted mountain bike trails, and the restoration and conservation of valuable and vulnerable habitats and wildlife species have in common?

They are all things Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) can do and maintain through successfully selling sustainably grown and harvested trees.

Graeme Prest, FLS director of land management and regions, said: “As a Scottish Government agency, we deliver an extensive range of environmental, social and economic outcomes while at the same time enabling many others to deliver on these same outcomes.

“However, while we do receive some Scottish Government funding, the bulk of the money we need to achieve at that high level is self-generated income. Most of that income is derived from timber sales, which year in year out requires a lot of focused and diligent effort, but it also relies on operational, market and trading conditions all aligning favourably.

Emerging technology is key to FLS's mission Emerging technology is key to FLS's mission (Image: FLS)

“Every year we aim to produce 3.2 million m3 (over bark standing) of timber in order to generate around £90 million per year of income.

“Topped up with smaller amounts of income from elsewhere in the business and some Scottish Government funding, the production of timber is essentially what keeps us in business and pays for everything that we do.”

As the leading land management agency in Scotland, FLS is involved with species reintroduction, conservation and management, contributes to the planting of new native woodland and – more than any other single organisation – the restoration of precious habitats including peatland, Atlantic rainforest and Caledonian pinewoods.

It leads the way in community engagement. As well as facilitating hundreds of community events and volunteering opportunities across the country, it also manages an active and ongoing programme of community asset transfers that enable local job creation, skill transfer and wealth generation.

And as the largest provider of outdoor recreation – with over 300 visitor destinations that are visited around 11 million times a year – FLS-managed forests and land contribute to the improvement of the mental, emotional and physical well-being of millions of people. It also generates around £110 million of tourism spend for the wider Scottish economy annually.


“We have a tremendous motivation to succeed but there is no doubt that it is always a challenge," Graeme added. “Timber is a global commodity traded internationally and every day, we compete on a level playing field for market share with imported timber or private sector forestry. We cannot be complacent and we have to offer best value to ensure FLS timber is purchased over these alternatives.

“Achieving that is crucial to setting our sales and income targets and agreeing the allocation of timber and methods for sale. And the fact that all FLS timber is UKWAS certified as being sustainably grown also helps our customers meet their obligations and keeps them coming back.

“We are unique in Scottish Government.”

The Scottish timber market is becoming increasingly competitive and in any given year, FLS produces 45 per cent of the Scottish market supply.

FLS also works with a number of apprentices in any given year FLS also works with a number of apprentices in any given year (Image: FLS)

Regional teams work with a national team to coordinate individual sales and business plans into the annual timber sale programmes for Scotland. This work decides how much of what particular tree species is sold, and where and when it is sourced/felled.

This constancy of supply helps to sustain jobs in the harvesting, haulage and processing sectors, as well as encouraging investment within private sector forestry.

Scottish grown timber is used in construction (sawn products such as carcassing and processed products such as chip board), fencing, decking, pallets and more.

The Scottish Timber sector represents £1 billion pounds of GVA and sustains 26,000 jobs, mostly in the fragile rural economy.

This is a guest column, provided by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS).