Committee cites ‘tensions’ between forestry and farming as factor in decline of Scotland’s trees


‘Frustrating’ tensions between the forestry and farming sectors have been cited by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee as contributing to declining planting rates in Scotland. 

The Committee’s call for the sectors to ‘truly integrate and work together’ to help deliver reduced carbon emissions came as it comments on aspects of the Scottish Government’s draft budget 2015-16. 

The Scottish Government has a target of planting 100,000 hectares of new woodlands between 2012 and 2022, equivalent to 10,000 hectares per year. The Committee has voiced concerns that planting targets are not being met, and the annual planting rate is falling, with the potential to impact seriously on Scotland’s carbon reduction targets. 

Rob Gibson MSP, Convener of the Committee said:  

“The issue for the Committee is whether tree planting targets are not being met because of a lack of funds, or whether there are other barriers which are preventing the money delivering as expected.” 

Mr Gibson continued: 

“The tension between farming and forestry has been a frustratingly recurring theme for the Committee. Countless seemingly encouraging words from groups and individuals on both sides come and go yet there seems to be little positive evidence that farming and forestry interests are truly integrating and working together on the scale required to play their part in reducing Scotland’s carbon emissions. 

“We are requesting an explanation from the Scottish Government as to why the planting targets are not being met and what steps it is taking to address the situation.”   

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s report on the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2015-16 highlighted a range of issues, including: 

  • Comments made by the Forestry Commission Scotland that the current budget for acquisitions is zero due to a lack of land sales.
  • A call for urgent improvements to be made to the transparency, accessibility and to the operation of the consultation process surrounding the sales and purchases of Forestry Commission Scotland land by Forest Enterprise, with local communities to be as fully integrated and involved as possible. The Committee is recommending the Scottish Government consider the possibility of a clearly defined public interest test to be undertaken in all cases where Forestry Commission Scotland/ Forest Enterprise is involved in the sale or purchase of land.
  • Whether tenant farmers could be eligible for compensation for forestry  improvements and investments made when leaving a tenancy, and how tree planting by tenant farmers more generally can best be encouraged and facilitated.
  • The modest budget and largely voluntary approach being taken within the Farming for a Better Climate programme may not prove successful in securing the target level of emissions reductions. Mandatory measures should be considered if robust evidence shows the voluntary approach is not working.


The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s (RACCE) report on the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2015-16 can be accessed via the link below:

Report on Draft Budget 2015-16

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) scrutinises policy proposals relating to rural affairs, climate change and the environment. It comes to a view after taking comprehensive evidence from, and engaging with, a wide range of stakeholders ‘on the frontline’ and applies authoritive, expert, effective and influential scrutiny to policy. 

Photographs of the Committee and Convener are available free of charge.

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