South Scotland

Pilot scheme to increase Scotland's woodland

Woodland
Image caption The woodland project is expected to cover a total area of about 400 hectares

Farmers' leaders have cautiously welcomed a pilot scheme that aims to increase tree cover across the country.

Forestry Commission Scotland's scheme involves leasing "suitable" land from farmers for about 10 years to create new woodland.

The land would then be returned to the farmer to reap the benefits.

NFU Scotland have backed the idea but remain concerned the scheme is targeted at land traditionally used for livestock production.

Announcing the pilot project, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said climate change was a key issue and both farming and forestry had an important part to play in tackling it.

She continued: "Too often these sectors are regarded as being separate industries but I'm pleased that recent discussions are starting to forge closer working ties. This new pilot project could strengthen this partnership.

"Simply put, we are not planting enough trees and we need to look to innovative ways to overcome this. We have improved woodland grants and streamlined the process for applications but more needs done."

'Helpful gauge'

NFU Scotland said it believed the pilot would provide "a helpful gauge" on the demand for such a scheme in the future and assist those interested in establishing farm woodland.

But it added there were still "concerns that the scheme is targeted at land traditionally used for livestock production and that some of the terms and conditions of the pilot need to be determined".

Should the pilot develop into a widely-available scheme, NFU Scotland said it would look for "cast-iron assurances" from the Scottish government that it will serve agricultural interests as well as meeting the government's climate change targets.

These targets aim to have 25% of Scotland under trees in the future and 650,000 hectares of new forest planted in the next 40 to 65 years.

Meanwhile, Forestry Commission Scotland wants to hear from farmers who are interested in tree-planting on land that is suitable for productive woodland but is not prime agricultural land.

Depending on the interest shown, the project is expected to cover a total area of around 400 hectares, covering a number of sites.

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