Scotland's nature needs help to recover and thrive
We need a robust delivery strategy for biodiversity in Scotland.
The vision outlined in the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Strategy is positive, but its 5-year delivery plan must support native woodland and give nature the help it really needs. Thank you for joining us in calling for the delivery plan to include stronger actions that will help restore native woods and reverse nature’s decline.
We need a strong strategy for nature recovery
During the consultation on the draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy in spring 2023, you joined us in urging Scottish Government to include ambitions to protect, restore and expand native woodland habitats. In autumn 2023, it launched a consultation on a Scottish Biodiversity Strategy 5-year delivery plan to gather your feedback on the key actions and targets it sets out.
We are in the midst of a nature emergency and biodiversity is in decline. Native woodland is central to tackling this crisis and must be prioritised. We welcome the ambition of the new plan, but it needs more detail and commitment to restore Scotland’s nature before it’s too late.
species in Scotland
is at risk from extinction
5 ways to tackle the nature emergency with native trees
We responded to the consultation with five recommendations for the Scottish Government to tackle the nature emergency with trees.
1. Reduce deer densities
The consultation document includes an ambition to reduce deer densities to two deer per square kilometre in ’priority woodland’ to allow trees to naturally regenerate. This should be extended to include:
- broadening the ‘priority woodland’ group to include all ancient woodland, native pinewoods and core areas of Scotland's rainforest.
- low deer numbers beyond the boundaries of ’priority woodland’.
- commitment to low deer densities in the six proposed landscape restoration areas with a significant woodland component.
- incentives and sanctions to turn ambition into action.
2. Expand native woodlands
Expanding native woodland in varied habitats is crucial to biodiversity. The plan should:
- develop support mechanisms to create woods alongside rivers on 30% of eligible areas by 2045.
- outline how local authorities will be supported to increase urban canopy cover to 25% by 2045, with 30% as the long-term goal.
- financially support significant integration of trees and woods into farming systems through the lower tiers of the new agricultural support scheme.
- replace 3,000 miles (50%) of lost hedgerows by 2045.
- incentivise the creation of native woodland in areas that buffer, extend and connect areas of existing ancient woodland and improve ecological connectivity. Natural colonisation from existing local seed sources should be the preferred method.
- restore a natural tree line to the uplands by developing a mountain woodland creation option under the Forestry Grant Scheme.
3. Improve woodland condition
Our native woodland is threatened by deer numbers and non-native trees and will be lost without urgent action. that the plan needs to make sure that by 2045:
- deer populations in 75% of Scotland’s native woodlands are low enough to enable the growth of a healthy ground flora and the next generation of trees.
- 80% of Plantations on Ancient Woodland on Government land and 50% of those on private land should be restored.
- we have a robust metric and system for assessing native woodland condition.
4. Remove Rhododendron ponticum from Scotland’s rainforest
We welcome the commitment to remove invasive non-native species at scale, but we need a coherent plan to remove it from core areas of Scotland’s rainforest where it is an existential threat. This should include:
- delivering the Scottish Government’s previous commitment to establish a Rainforest Restoration Fund.
- a programme of research and development that focuses on reducing the cost and maximising the impact of invasive non-native plant control, starting with Rhododendron ponticum.
5. Help timber forests restore nature
We need more timber forests in Scotland and welcome the ambition to secure greater biodiversity value from our timber forests. This should include:
- incentivising owners of timber plantations to include a natural mountain woodland treeline where appropriate. This would add significant ecological benefit at little cost without reducing timber production.
- requiring larger areas of open ground and native trees and shrubs in plantations supported by public funding.
- a grant scheme to support restructuring of timber plantations to benefit nature.
Thank you for responding to the consultation
The consultation closed on 14 December 2023. We expect Scottish Government to release an analysis of the results in the first half of 2024 and we'll let you know when that happens. Thank you for standing up for Scotland’s nature with us.