The Scottish Government’s proposed cut to Scotland’s tree-planting budget, which risks resulting in millions of saplings being destroyed, has been raised with Martin Whitfield MSP during a visit to local business Alba Trees Ltd.

As part of its climate change commitments, the Scottish Government is meant to be increasing tree-planting to 18,000 hectares annually from this year. Its overarching target is to increase tree cover in Scotland from 19 per cent of the land mass to 25 per cent.

However, it was announced in the December budget that next year’s funding is being cut by 41 per cent, from £77.2m to £45.4m, meaning it is likely that only 9,000 hectares will be planted in the year from April.

This is potentially devastating for the forestry sector, especially tree nurseries which are already growing millions of seedlings to help meet the planned tree-planting targets. The reduced funding not only means these trees are at risk but is also damaging to jobs and Scotland’s chances of meeting it climate change targets.

Conservation charity Woodland Trust Scotland has also condemned the cuts, stating that it makes no sense to pull the rug out from under the sector in this way when tree-planting is such an important part of our response to climate change.

Alba Trees, Woodland Trust and others in the sector want the Scottish Government to rethink the proposed budget cut, which they all agree will cause long term damage to the sector and Scotland’s ability to meet its climate change targets.

Commenting, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“Scotland is well placed to take a lead on tree-planting, which is good for green jobs and for tackling climate change. However, the Scottish Government has already missed all but one of its last six annual targets for creating new woodland.

“This is only set to get worse following the cut announced in December. It will widen the existing gap between targets and delivery and is devastating for the forestry sector and businesses like Alba that have been working towards targets agreed with the Scottish Government.

“If Ministers are serious about achieving Scotland’s climate change targets they must review these cuts, get behind the sector and support the existing ambitious targets for increasing tree-planting.”

Craig Turner, CEO, Alba Trees Ltd, said:

“We are very encouraged by the recent interest that has been shown to the Forestry sector by MSPs, including from our local representative Martin Whitfield.

“We all understand the current Budget pressures in Scotland, however, there has been recognition and understanding that our industry has to plan a long way ahead.

“If as a nation we are to meet our climate change pledges, then the tree-planting element requires a long-term approach and can’t fluctuate with short-term budget cycles.”