Trees and woodlands are key to tackling some of the biggest issues facing Scotland today: climate change, nature’s decline and people’s wellbeing.

They absorb carbon, provide a home for nature, and positively benefit people’s mental and physical health – more important than ever as we recover from the pandemic.

Yet many of our most precious woodlands and trees are still threatened. And the communities most in need of their health-giving benefits are often least likely to have them.

Trees are essential for the resilience of our future places and our actions are essential to the resilience of trees.

The Woodland Trust Scotland calls on you to ensure key issues around woods and trees are addressed with policy commitments in your manifesto for the forthcoming elections.

Woods and trees to address the climate and nature emergencies

We are in the midst of a global climate and nature emergency. In Scotland 1 in 9 species risk extinction and the latest IPCC states “Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.” Woods and trees combat these mounting pressures.

Average carbon stocks per hectare in Scotland’s ancient woodland are 31% higher than the average for all woodland types. And carbon stocks in ancient woodland are set to double over the next 100 years. To meet our net zero ambitions, we must ensure no further ancient woods or veteran trees are lost.

Ancient woods across Scotland’s West Coast, known as Scotland’s rainforests, are home to more than 500 species of mosses, ferns, lichens and liverworts along with a huge array of other plants and animals, some found only in Scotland. Our Caledonian pine forests are equally special - providing homes for some of Scotland’s most iconic and rare flora and fauna like twinflower, capercaillie and pine marten.

Yet our woodland and trees need our help more than ever:

  • Less than 2% of Scotland is covered with irreplaceable ancient woodland.
  • Only 3% of Scotland’s native woodlands are in good ecological condition.
  • There is a widespread loss of trees outside of woodlands including ancient and veteran trees.
  • Almost all our native tree species have been affected by an introduced pest or disease in the last 30 years.
  • 50-75% of ash trees in Scotland could be lost to ash dieback.

Woods and trees for people

Trees clean the air we breathe and reduce noise from traffic and industry. They have a huge range of positive effects on people’s physical and mental health.

But access to woods and trees is not equally distributed. People in some communities have less chance to benefit and not all woodlands are in good or even safe condition to be enjoyed.

This inequality can be eliminated by ensuring plans for new developments include quality tree planting. Existing woods should be under positive management using programmes like Scottish Forestry’s Woods In and Around Towns. Local authorities should make effective use of Forestry and Woodland Strategies and Tree Preservation Orders.

The issues we have raised should be prioritised by all candidates as important responses to the climate and nature emergencies. Securing a better future for our woodlands secures a better future for everyone. Woodland Trust Scotland looks forward to continuing to work with councillors, councils and communities on these vital issues.

Local authorities have the powers to act on these issues. As a candidate the Woodland Trust asks you to commit to:

  1. Protecting and restoring ancient woodland through the planning system and through council policies and strategies for biodiversity, climate and forestry.
  2. Making sure planners use Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory to identify and protect ancient and veteran trees.
  3. Ensuring new planting in the council area uses locally sourced and grown native trees to avoid the introduction of pests and diseases.
  4. Ensuring ash dieback is carefully managed in the area, and replacement of lost trees.
  5. Making effective use of Tree Preservation Orders to protect trees important to communities.
  6. Making effective use of Forestry and Woodland Strategies to protect and enhance woodlands for a variety of uses.
  7. Increase tree canopy cover through a commitment to a minimum 20% across towns and cities, and 30% stipulated in all new developments.
  8. Bringing existing council-owned woods under positive management.
For further information

Contact Suzie Saunders, public affairs officer at suziesaunders@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Explore the vital role of trees