MSP urges SNP to boost farm woodland

Peter Chapman used a debate on forestry to urge Ministers to encourage the growth of farm woodland in future forestry legislation.
Peter Chapman used a debate on forestry to urge Ministers to encourage the growth of farm woodland in future forestry legislation.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for the SNP government to provide more support for farmers seeking to diversify their business.

Peter Chapman, the Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesman, used a debate on forestry in parliament to urge Ministers to “encourage the growth of farm woodland” in future forestry legislation.

The Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, recently announced that tree planting targets are to increase from 10,000 hectares a year to 15,000 by 2025 despite having not met current targets since 2012.

Mr Chapman’s comments came as parliament discussed a range of measures to boost forestry in Scotland, an industry already worth £1billion to the economy.

Setting out his party’s position, Mr Chapman said: “We all recognise that forestry is a vitally important part of the rural economy.

“Less than 20% of Scotland’s land area is currently forests which compares poorly Spain, Finland or the EU average.

“While across Scandinavian countries, most farmers are foresters and it is not unusual at all for farmers to harvest crops over the summer and trees in the winter.

“I am convinced that there are large swathes of land in Scotland where the sheep have already gone off the hills but these areas have not been planted and basically abandoned.

“Here is a valuable resource and a real source of income for the land owner being wasted.

“So what the SNP need to do is streamline the grant process to make it as easy as possible for farmers to benefit from the opportunities here.”