18 Aug 2023

Blog: Working to boost tree planting

It was only a couple of months ago when the annual woodland creation statistics were published.

There had been a huge amount of effort by so many people and organisations to create new woodlands, but the figures showed an unwelcome dip.

However, on a more positive note, a raft of measures was announced to boost planting levels and Scottish Forestry is pulling out all the stops to do everything it can to improve performance and support landowners and managers to maximise their planting.

Scottish Forestry also refreshed its guidance to help communities get more engaged in new forestry schemes as their involvement is an important part of the whole woodland creation process.

Although the dust has hardly settled since the figures were published in June, we asked Brendan Callaghan, Head of Operational Delivery, what has been going on behind the scenes.

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How have things been in Scottish Forestry since the annual figures were released?
I’ve been really heartened by the positive “can do” attitude that the staff have shown and continue to show. We know we have a very challenging job but we have collectively been working to pull our woodland creation efforts together in a more consolidated and targeted way – we are really up for it!

We know this is a long-term issue and some aspects will take a few years to feed through but we are very much up for the challenge.

Can you say anything about where we are on current woodland creation approvals?
Yes, Scottish Forestry has already approved 10,800 ha of new woodland for 23/24 and there are more applications in the pipeline which we expect to deal with over the next few months. In addition, just since the start of August, we have received applications for 229 ha of new FGS woodland creation planting, which is great news.

Of course, we won’t know the overall actual planted figures until they are published next June but I am confident that we are going in the right direction.

This is really positive and I want to thank Scottish Forestry staff and the many applicants and stakeholders for their contributions so far.

We need to continue working closely with the forestry sector to avoid the same slippage as in last year where many trees didn’t get planted. We’re in discussions with the sector about that too with the aim of reducing the number of projects where planting is delayed after the approval.

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You have many new staff – how are they getting on?
We increased our staffing capacity by around 15% to help support woodland creation in Scotland. They are all eager to get learning more about the organisation, forestry and working with stakeholders.

We are investing £1 million over the next couple of years into a comprehensive training and skills development plan to support them and this is on-going. The goal is to grow the skills and confidence of our staff and in turn to improve the woodland creation application process, for both applicants and stakeholders. This will help avoid delays with the regulatory approval process and support landowners, both large and small, to get more trees into the ground.

Do we know yet when the forestry summit is to be held?
We are working on this just now and involving the sector in discussions. We will say more shortly, but we are looking forward to a very positive and interactive event in the Autumn. Watch out for details! 

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Any general message for the sector?
Yes, I’d just like to reinforce the message that Scottish Forestry is pulling out all the stops we can to help increase planting rates.

Developing and delivering successful woodland creation schemes is very much a combined effort between the public sector, the forestry sector, landowners and local stakeholders and communities. We will all need to work closely together if we want to succeed and secure increasing levels of tree planting.

Our local Conservancies are very busy but are very willing to help and advise anyone who wishes to get involved with creating new woodlands.

Further information:

Contact your local Conservancy office here.
More advice on woodland creation is available here.