The historic deforestation of Scotland
In Scotland extensive woodland removal has occurred through a combination of natural climate change as well as human activities such as deliberate change in land use. Since 1990 there has been significant woodland removal associated with landscape design, restoration of priority habitats and development such as housing or wind farms. The Scottish Government is committed to maintain and enhance Scotland’s forests and woodland resources for the benefit of current and future generations. To achieve this, we need to prevent inappropriate woodland loss (Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-29).
A policy on the control of woodland removal
Forests and woodland are important resources and they make a substantial contribution to the economy at both National and local level, they provide considerable environmental benefits and help to improve people’s lives. In Scotland there is a strong presumption in favour of protecting as well as expand our forest and woodland and make sure that our forests are sustainably managed. The Scottish Government has developed policy to provide direction for decisions on woodland removal in Scotland and it’s relevant to all woodland removal for the purpose of conversion to another land use. The removal of large areas of woodland will not be supported and all proposals must be compliant with the UK Forestry Standard.
The policy supports the Scottish Government's’ ambition on forestry as expressed in the Climate Change Plan to increase Scotland’s woodland cover from around 19% to 21% of the Scottish land area by 2032.
Woodland removal should be kept to a minimum and where woodland is felled, it should be replanted. The policy only supports woodland removal where it would achieve significant and clearly defined public benefits. In some cases compensatory planting may form part of this balance. The details are included in the policy.
We have published guidance on implementing the Scottish Government's policy on control of woodland removal. The guidance applies to both consenting authorities and applicants to secure a consistent implementation of Scottish Government’s policy. Our standard Scoping Opinion is available.