Forestry in Scotland

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Soay woodland, West Coast Important Plant Area, Scotland. © Deborah Long/Plantlife

Scotland today has more woodland than 90 years ago. In 1919, when the Forestry Commission was set up, Scotland’s forest covered 5% of the land area. Today, it has reached around 17%, with 5% being native woodland and the remaining 12% non-native plantations – with a target of 25% by 2050. Even at its current size, Scotland’s woodland is home to 36% of Scotland’s threatened species.

So what's going wrong?

Despite Scotland’s native woodland being more than 1,000 times larger than our upland hay meadows and 14 times larger than our lowland raised bogs, characteristic woodland plants continue to decline. It would seem that Government ambitions to create woodland at a rate of around 10,000ha per year is too simplistic an approach to tackle the continuing decline in woodland species diversity.

Why is this happening?

More woodland is a well-intentioned aim but what we really need is better woodland. Too many of our woods are neglected, mismanaged or under-managed. This is the major threat to their plant life and to the other wildlife that depends upon a rich woodland flora. Overgrazing by a soaring deer population is compounding the problem.

What should be done?

If our native woodland – much of it of international importance – is to be protected and enjoyed by future generations, then all woodland owners need to take a more informed and more active approach to woodland management. We do not need more woodland empty of wildlife and devoid of natural beauty. Plantlife’s vision is for a woodland estate where the economic incentives exist for private woodland owners to manage their woods more actively, and where those woodlands in public ownership are managed to the highest standard to deliver benefits for the public of beautiful landscapes rich in wildlife.


Download our report:

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Scotland Woodland Report

Plantlife's report on the state of Scotland's woodland and recommendations for its improvement.

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