Scotland politics

Ash tree disease crisis summit held at Holyrood

Ash tree
Image caption A survey of ash trees has taken place in Scotland

About 50 interested parties have met at Holyrood to discuss the best way of stemming the spread of Chalara ash dieback.

The fungal disease, which threatens to devastate the UK's ash tree population, has been found at 14 Scottish sites.

Representatives from organisations such as the Woodland Trust spent an hour discussing how to manage the outbreak.

The Scottish government hopes to develop a "control strategy" by the end of November.

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "We will look at options for new planting sites, including immediate action to remove infected young plants. We will continue to monitor the situation and assess the scope and range of the disease and decide on an appropriate course of action.

"The next phase of our response will involve working closely with all of the land managers in Scotland - and the public - to monitor the disease, report it wherever it is found and act appropriately to deal with it while seeking to identify mature trees that are resistant to the disease."

'Back foot'

Labour environment spokeswoman Claire Baker described the conference as "very much the case of bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted".

"The meeting today is merely a fig-leaf to cover the embarrassment of the SNP, whose ministers have been caught asleep on the job," she said.

"We need to understand why Scotland is still on the back foot when it comes to tackling this disease."

The government previously said it is not realistic to eradicate the disease given its spread across the UK.

Most cases north of the border have been found in saplings in nurseries or planted at new developments, but it has affected mature trees at Eyemouth and Kinghorn.

In February ash dieback was found in a consignment of trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire, England.

The disease is only infectious during the summer months and there is said to be very little risk of it spreading at this time of year.

Rory Syme, from the Woodland Trust Scotland, told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "All of the trees that the Woodland Trust plants from now on will be sourced and grown from British seed.

"What we're looking to do is to launch a major project linking the public and scientists together to help monitor our native trees."