tree planting


Scotland’s climate change advisers have expressed “serious concerns” regarding cuts to tree planting, a move announced in December that slashes the woodland creation budget by 41%, from £77.2m to £45.4m.

This reduction means that ministers will fall significantly short of next year’s target of planting 18,000 hectares of new woodland to combat climate change. The Scottish government attributes this decision to cuts in the block grant from Westminster.

The forestry sector warns that millions of small trees, nurtured in nurseries for planting, will now face destruction due to the budget cut.

Seeking guidance on this matter, the Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) reached out to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which provides expert advice to both the Scottish and UK governments on climate action.

In response, CCC chief executive Chris Stark emphasised that any delay in tree planting risks jeopardising efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, essential for meeting targets in the 2030s and beyond.

He added that the budget cuts “represent a continued gap in Scotland meeting its tree planting ambition” and that the committee has “serious concerns” about the plans.

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor, stressed that the industry will take years to regain confidence for investment.

He added: “It is vital that in the coming weeks, Scotland’s government listens to the CCC and works with Confor and the Woodland Trust to find a funding solution.”

Tree planting plays a crucial role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide. However, there’s a time lag between planting trees and their substantial carbon sequestration impact.

The committee previously recommended that Scotland should plant 15,000 hectares of new woodlands annually from 2025.

However, past targets have been consistently missed, with planting rates in 2022/23 reaching only 8,200 hectares.

Despite this, the Scottish government’s budget for 2024/25 allows for just 9,000 hectares of new woodlands, although Scotland’s contribution remains larger than that of the rest of the UK combined.

Opposition parties have criticised the cuts to the woodland creation budget, with Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie leading the call for reconsideration, supported by Labour and Conservative MSPs.

Mr Rennie said: “The Scottish government’s cuts to woodland creation are another ill-considered decision that will have negative effects further down the road.

“Expanding forestry can be a win-win, trapping carbon and restoring habitats for native wildlife.”

The Scottish government’s Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “To grow our woodland resource and tackle climate change takes funding, yet the UK government has reduced the capital spend to Scotland by 10% and this has had serious knock on effects for woodland creation.

“I would welcome the committee’s support in seeking further funding from the UK government so that we can all get more trees in the ground and tackle climate change and nature loss.”



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The decline in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their decline towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect on the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

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