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Native woodland creation in the Highlands is to get a boost thanks to an increase in the grant support available.
An additional £400 per hectare for suitable areas will encourage new planting and create a demand for young trees that will stimulate the forest nursery sector.
Speaking at the Confor annual dinner, Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing said: ‘The forestry sector and the many benefits it brings is so important to a vibrant Scotland.
‘It is a £1 billion success story that draws investment to rural Scotland, that is a key contributor to our climate change targets and that supports rural jobs and the economy.
‘We have made good progress but we must keep innovating to do more. We have increased our long-term planting targets in a series of steps, from 10,000 hectares to 15,000 hectares per year by 2025.
‘To achieve this, we need land owners and managers to plant a mixture of woodland types right across Scotland, so we need our grants to reflect this variety.
‘This increased grant rate for more remote areas will make native woodland creation more attractive on a wide range of sites and is a clear sign of the government’s commitment to modern sustainable forestry.
‘It will provide the impetus and opportunity for farmers and other land managers to plant more trees.’
The areas eligible for increased grant support include those identified as preferred for planting across the Highland Council area. Additional grant support will also be available for work such as bracken clearing and fencing.
Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall said: ‘This demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to Scotland’s successful forestry sector. Employment in forestry has grown by 50 per cent since 2008, and it can be a driver of further rural employment across the whole of Scotland. I welcome this additional support for tree planting as a means to delivering the government’s ambitious and important planting targets.’
Carol Evans, director of Woodland Trust Scotland, added: ‘New native woodland needs as much help as it can get in the more remote parts of the Highlands. So, we are delighted that yet again the Scottish Government is demonstrating its very real commitment to growing a Scotland rich in woods and trees; a Scotland with a wealth of biodiversity; and a flourishing Scottish forestry industry supporting jobs and tourism.’