Martin Whitfield MSP for South Scotland and Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray MP have visited Glennon Brothers’ Windymains sawmill near Humbie, and Alba Trees nursery, near Tranent, to see what ‘green prosperity’ looks like on the ground.

Forestry and wood processing is already one of the UK’s greenest sectors, as trees remove carbon from the atmosphere as they grow and modern forest design ensures a range of societal and environmental benefits are delivered in managed forests. The carbon removed by growing trees is then stored when trees are harvested to make wood products.

The visits offered Mr Whitfield and Mr Murray a chance to see how committing to supporting the UK forest industries in future can also help deliver more green jobs and growth. In Scotland alone, forestry and wood processing already supports in excess of 25,000 jobs and contributes around £1 billion every year to the economy.

Speaking after the visits, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“As a local MSP I am pleased to stand up for East Lothian businesses in the Scottish Parliament and ensure the Scottish Government listens to their concerns and responds to ensure they have all means necessary to ensure future success. Green jobs across the UK are a priority for the Labour party and I am really pleased to see East Lothian is ahead of the game with industry-leading companies that are continuing to invest and provide good-quality green jobs for the future generations.”

Ian Murray, Shadow Scottish Secretary, said:

“Getting the chance to visit Windymains Timber and Alba Trees in East Lothian was extremely informative and I learned so much from both businesses about the challenges they are facing right now.  Scottish Labour wants to listen to business and hear more about issues they face to help them grow and create more green jobs.  It’s good to know that there is a successful forestry and timber processing industry in Scotland that is already contributing to net zero ambitions.  Labour looks forward to supporting this sector when we are in government.”

At Windymains, Scott Shiells, Head of Group Operations for Glennon Brothers, said:

“Like other manufacturing businesses, recent years have seen real challenges with the pandemic and war in Ukraine affecting global trade.  However, we have continued to make significant investments at Windymains to respond to growing demand for fencing, decking and other timber products.

“We need reassurance from the UK Government that in delivering targets for tree planting it will provide the commercial timber supplies we need in future to continue to invest and ideally to reduce the UK’s need for ever-increasing imports of timber.  It’s good to know that what we want is closely aligned with Labour Party goals to grow the green economy and sustainable businesses like Glennon Brothers.”

Craig Turner, Chief Executive of Alba Trees which grows over 30 million young trees a year at its nursery near Tranent, added:

“Government tree planting targets are important to our business as they provide the framework in which we operate and plan for future growth.  It’s great to see political parties recognise the huge public benefits that planting more trees can bring to the economy, society and the environment.  However, we need realistic targets, agreed with input from our sector, that offer greater long-term certainty and a stable environment for business planning.  We are proud to grow so many of the UK’s new trees here in East Lothian and with the appropriate support from the government, there is no reason that success cannot continue.”

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of forestry and wood trade body Confor who accompanied the politicians on the visit, said:

“From now until the general election, there will be intensive political debate on how best to fix the economy, tackle the climate crisis, and deliver the green jobs of the future. As part of meeting ambitious tree planting targets, government needs to ensure that there is at least no reduction in the availability of wood in future and ideally that supply increases.  Tree planting plans by the UK and devolved governments are ambitious, but Confor is concerned that delivery – especially at UK level – is not keeping pace.

“The UK imports 80% of the wood it uses and without action we will see supply reduce as global demand increases, threatening fragile forests overseas and starving the UK of the wood it needs to achieve net zero.  Planting more wood-producing forests here will support local economies and create high-quality green jobs, reduce imports and support our climate change ambitions.”