26 Sep 2023

Forestry scheme approvals on the up

Scottish Forestry is pulling out all the stops to drive woodland creation rates up and has now exceeded last year’s total for Forestry Grant Scheme approvals.

So far, a total of 11,200 hectares of forestry schemes have been given the green light by Scottish Forestry for planting in 2023 with more expected in the coming months.  

Of further significance, over half of these approvals - 6,000 hectares - are for native woodland schemes, giving a further boost to the environment. This is the highest level of native woodland planting approved under the current Forestry Grant Scheme.

Welcoming the improvement in approval figures during Scottish Climate Week, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“Woodland creation is a vital part of the Scottish Government’s plans to tackle the climate emergency and to address increased biodiversity. This is very much a partnership between government, the forestry sector, communities, landowners and stakeholders. Each has a role to play and is an integral part of the jigsaw in getting trees in the ground.

“I’m really pleased that Scottish Forestry is working hard to approve applications as quickly as they can, whilst also ensuring each scheme is rigorously assessed.

“We know we collectively have a way to go to get planting rates higher still but the positive approval numbers show we are heading in the right direction.

“Scottish Forestry has worked tirelessly with landowners, communities and the forestry sector to  prioritise the assessment of these schemes. It is my hope now that landowners turn these approvals into actual trees in the ground. 

“All forestry interests will soon be coming together at a forestry summit, which I am delighted to chair, where we will collectively build on the positive figures and develop our plans to further improve on planting rates in Scotland.”

Amongst the native woodland approvals are almost 700 hectares which is expected to be delivered through natural regeneration, without the need for planting. This will be made possible by landscape scale deer management supported through the Forestry Grant Scheme.

As the Scottish Government’s regulator for forestry, Scottish Forestry undertakes the approvals process for new woodland schemes but the actual responsibility of planting the trees is undertaken by the applicants, which range from landowning interests right across the rural landscape, varying in landscape and background.

In the last five years, Scotland has created 51,000 ha of new woodland, the equivalent of 102 million trees.

Notes to news Editors

  1. A comprehensive package of new forestry measures were recently announced by the Scottish Government last June, which will see Scottish Forestry implement a number of actions to revitalise new planting in Scotland.
  2. Part of this includes up to a £1 million investment in Scottish Forestry staff to expand training in dealing with the many aspects of approving woodland creation applications. This comprehensive training will equip staff, many of whom are new, with the right skills to speed up the approvals process.
  3. Last year Scottish Forestry approved 11,000 hectares, however landowners planted around 8,190 hectares, which represents a 25% slippage. The upcoming forestry summit aims to identify why this slippage occurred and what measures can collectively be undertaken to remedy this.
  4. On average, Scottish Forestry approves around 1,000 hectares of new woodland proposals per month. Each application is rigorously assessed and can take around 1-2 years due environmental assessments, community engagement and scheme development.