When I heard of the massive cut in the Scottish Forestry budget, my first reaction was of disbelief, followed by anger.

Should we adopt the French farmers’ tactics and march on Holyrood? Remember the BFAG (British Foresters’ Action Group) and the mass lobby of the Westminster Parliament?  Fifty chainsaws (minus blades at the request of the Metropolitan Police) sounding off in Trafalgar Square? A wreath of nursery plants laid at the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s front door. Hours of TV and press coverage, resulting in the dropping of proposed legislation which would have had a disastrous impact on our industry. Welsh farmers are now demonstrating against proposals to reduce the area of farms dedicated to food production by 10 per cent, threatening financial viability. Yet we are expected to accept a 35-per-cent reduction in the area which can contribute to an income flow!

However, once my temperature had returned to normal, I decided the budget cut didn’t matter, because the money would not have been spent anyway, as the conditions attached to grant support are such that it is virtually impossible to make an investment case for afforestation by the private sector. In my opinion, any planting at present must be by the philanthropic or misguided.

The inclusion of the non-timber-producing species in the dismal statistics is a distraction, because the whole point of targets was to aim at security of timber supply in the future. The momentum achieved in addressing this objective has been hijacked by the greenies in order to advance their own laudable objectives. When supplies of toilet paper and building materials etc become limited, who will get the blame?

To get planting rates by the private sector back up to speed, we need to be able to plant a first-rotation minimum of 85 per cent of first-choice species with the balance second choice and space, and grant levels need to be more in line with land price. It would be interesting to know what those now unsuccessfully trying to promote investment think.
Len Yull


Thanks for a great journal and for standing up for British commercial forestry!
I am a great fan of Dr Mabbett and always read his articles with interest, but on page 34 (‘A complex conundrum for Scots pine, FJ 355) is a picture captioned ‘Ancient Caledonian forest at Abernethy’.

Have another look! The trees are all the same species, size and age. It’s a plantation planted by the old foresters of the area. In fact, nearly all the pine forests in the Cairngorm National Park and Speyside are old plantation forestry, not ancient woodland. The Caledonian pine forest myth is perpetuated by romantic dreams, but the reality is a testament to the skill of the foresters of a bygone era.

If Scots pine is under threat of diseases maybe we should plant … Sitka! Keep up the good work,
Philip Blake, Munro Sawmills

EDITOR’S RESPONSE: Thanks for pointing this out, Philip. I’m happy to assure everyone that Dr Terry Mabbett was not at fault. I sourced the stock image in question, which was improperly labelled, so the blame lies with me. Thanks again for putting us right.