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Union Calls for Change in Terms for Woodland Group

NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish Government asking for a change to the terms of reference relating to the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG) that would allow its members to discuss overall targets for woodland creation.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, established WEAG in response to the publication of Scotland’s Land Use Strategy, which recognises that Scotland faces competing demands for the use of land. The new Group has been tasked with identifying which types of land are best suited for tree planting in Scotland.

However, NFU Scotland would like to see WEAG’s remit broadened to allow it to discuss target setting.  NFUS has severe reservations that the Scottish Government’s current target to see 25 percent of the country under trees in the future, creating 650,000 hectares of new forest and woodland in the next 40 to 65 years is likely to have unacceptable implications for existing land use.  It believes such targets merit the group’s consideration.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:

“In a small country like Scotland, there will always be tough choices to be made over land use priorities and it is already clear that permanent change to tree cover brings this debate into sharp focus.

“The terms of reference of WEAG currently prevent the group from commenting on overall targets for woodland and confine any recommendations from the group to suggesting solutions for delivering woodland expansion.  

“If the report from WEAG is to be meaningful and gain buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders, then it is crucial that it maps out the impacts of woodland expansion on other land uses, food production and rural communities. This should include an assessment of a range of woodland cover options to ensure the potential long-term changes of land use and any consequences are better understood. That process can map out conflicting pressures and help shape a land use strategy to optimise Scotland’s land resource.

“The focus of future woodland expansion is likely to be on Macaulay class 4 and 5 land. Such land is the engine room of Scottish livestock production and further loss of these grazing areas could have a significant impact on Scotland’s capability to provide food for current market demands and future generations. Such a change in land use also has the potential to negatively impact on both rural communities and the wider economy.

“Given the importance of the debate, we have written to Richard Lochhead asking for WEAG’s terms of reference to be revisited. We hope he will agree to shift the focus from optimising woodland expansion to also reflecting on the significance of land use not only to agriculture, but rural communities, landscape, food security and Scotland’s food and drink sectors.

“Future land use should not be a choice between farming or forestry, renewables or conservation. All can be accommodated, if the policy framework that drives land use decisions can be more coherent and more integrated.

“There is an important role for forestry within Scottish farming, and woodlands can be integrated into agricultural land use without compromising the ability to produce livestock and crops or the significance of those activities to local economies, biodiversity and communities.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 200/11


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