CONFOR has welcomed a commitment to significant new tree planting in the SNP's manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections.
The manifesto, launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh today, also pledges to reduce bureaucracy to speed up planting applications and highlights the role that forestry can play in reducing future flood risks.
Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall, who attended the launch as a representative of the sector, said it was very encouraging that the manifesto had a significant specific section on forestry.
"This is a good result for Confor's hard work throughout the previous parliamentary term to explain to politicians the enormous value of the forestry and timber sector to Scotland," said Mr Goodall. "This has consisted of a combination of face-to-face meetings, a major policy conference, Fringe events at party conferences, media work (including social media) and a series of high-quality publications. I am pleased that Confor's leadership in the sector appears to have paid off with the chunkiest section on forestry in any manifesto that I can remember."
The SNP manifesto pledges to "plant 10,000 hectares of new woodland every year to 2022" (around 22 million trees per year) "and work to hasten the pace of application and approval of planting".
It continues: "We will deliver support for woodland creation and improvement through the Forestry Grant Scheme. In particular, we will support the planting of woodland which can help prevent flooding and assist in water basin management."
Stuart Goodall said:
"I'm very pleased to see Nicola Sturgeon confirm the SNP's determination to plant the new forests that Scotland needs to secure the future of a successful, rural industry that contributes £1 billion a year to the economy and employs over 25,000 people.
"It's a major step forward that the manifesto identifies the need for applications for tree planting to be speeded up as well as recognising the benefit that tree planting can play in mitigating the threat of floods to Scotland's communities. There is a lot here to build on after the election."
Mr Goodall stressed that Confor would work closely with the Scottish Government after May 5 to move towards the delivery of manifesto promises.
"We take nothing for granted and know we have to continue working hard to tell the positive forestry story," he said. "We were heartened by Nicola Sturgeon's promise last November to hit the 100,000 hectares by 2022 target.
"While the manifesto commitment won't quite get us there, achieving that 10,000 hectares of planting every year until 2022 will help give our thriving sector the confidence it needs to continue investing in Scotland - delivering jobs and economic growth as well as environmental and social benefits."
Read the SNP manifesto – the forestry section is on page 28.