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Seòmar agus comataidhean

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Wednesday, January 24, 2024


Native Woodlands

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-11728, in the name of Ariane Burgess, on celebrating Scotland’s national native woodlands. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the 10th anniversary, on 29 January 2024, of Scots pine becoming Scotland’s national tree; understands that Caledonian pinewoods are unique to Scotland, and are the natural home of Scots pine; considers that Scotland is globally important for Caledonian pinewoods and Atlantic rainforest, and therefore has a special responsibility to protect and restore them; understands that both types of woodland support a wealth of biodiversity and can help mitigate against the impacts of climate change; notes the belief that browsing by deer and the spread of invasive non-native species means that many Caledonian pinewoods and Atlantic rainforests will not survive without urgent action; believes that these pressures impact all native woodlands across Scotland; notes the support for landscape-scale deer management and targeted grant funding to enable their restoration; further notes the view that Forestry and Land Scotland should continue to take a leadership role in this restoration, especially in the removal of invasive non-native species such as rhododendron; notes what it sees as the growing number of private landowners involved in pinewood and rainforest restoration, including at Glen Loyne in East Glen Quoich, Highlands, and thanks environmental groups like Trees for Life, Woodland Trust Scotland and Plantlife, as well as community groups such as Arkaig Community Forest in the Highlands, Langholm Initiative in the Borders, Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust, Argyll Coast and Communities Trust, and others in the Community Woodlands Association, for their efforts to restore Scotland’s native woodlands.


Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I thank my fellow MSPs for joining me in the debate this evening. I also thank the organisations that are mentioned in my motion, which are all working passionately to protect and restore our precious native woodlands: Trees for Life, the Woodland Trust Scotland, Plantlife International, Arkaig Community Forest, the Langholm Initiative, Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust, Argyll and the Isles Coast and Communities Trust, and the Community Woodlands Association as a whole.

We have just faced two back-to-back storms that wreaked havoc on people’s travel, businesses and lives, and which even took human lives. Those were not the first such storms and they will certainly not be the last, so we should remember that healthy native woodlands help to protect us from extreme weather events by protecting soils from erosion and communities from flooding.

Native woodland restoration is not something that is “nice to have”; it is an essential part of the response to the climate emergency that is playing out right in front of our eyes. This evening’s debate marks the 10th anniversary of the Scots pine becoming our country’s national tree. That was announced at a parliamentary reception on 29 January 2014, following a nationwide consultation in which thousands of Scots backed our native pine for that honour.

That tree is a symbol of Scotland, with a rich and storied history. Pine candles were used in wedding rituals in fishing communities, as they were believed to bring prosperity and luck. In Orkney, people would circle a pine candle three times around a mother and newborn child. Scots pines mark the burial places of warriors, heroes and chieftains. When wearing tartan was outlawed after the Jacobite uprising, the MacGregor clan wore the Scots pine as their plant badge in a gesture of defiance.

As the largest and longest-lived tree in the Caledonian forest, Scots pine is a symbol of durability. As the Gaelic proverb says, “Cruaidh mar am fraoch, buan mar an giuthas”—hard as the heather, lasting as the pine. However, Caledonian pinewoods now cover less than 2 per cent of their original area in Scotland, and scientists say that many of those remnants may not survive without urgent action.

Turning to Scotland’s temperate rainforest, the situation looks similar. That beautiful ecosystem, which survives in fragments along the west coast and on the inner isles, covers less than a fifth of its former area. Both types of woodland support a wealth of biodiversity and can help to reduce the impact of climate change. Globally, Scotland is one of the last bastions of those important habitats, so we have a special responsibility to protect and restore them. Fortunately, many community groups and third sector organisations are making a valiant effort to do just that.

Early in my time as an MSP, I visited Arkaig community forest, which boasts both Caledonian pinewoods and temperate rainforest. I was so impressed by the multifaceted projects, which include a native tree nursery, a community venison project and a forest school. More recently, the organisation’s young chairperson, Liam McLoone, wrote to me, explaining how the woods are “bursting with opportunities”, to use his words. He said:

“We regularly visit our woods, both individually and as a community, to experience the wildlife within and connect with our heritage. Our woods also contribute towards our community in the form of timber production, venison produce, craft materials, ecotourism and conservation jobs. I got involved with our community wood to learn more about the forest, and I am proud now to be involved in the management and restoration of that iconic place.”

That demonstrates how important people are to our native woodlands and how important our native woodlands are to people. However, without increased efforts to save them, they could be lost forever. A recent RSPB Scotland report found that 40 per cent of our rainforest shows a very high level of grazing, mainly by deer, which prevents or limits its long-term survival. Deer also pose a serious threat to Scots pine, especially now that many of the fences that were built to protect those woods in the 1990s have fallen into disrepair.

I was heartened by the commitment last year from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands that, by 2026, we will have

“Taken steps to further protect and restore our iconic Atlantic rainforests and ancient Caledonian pinewoods”.

I know that the groups and organisations that I have mentioned would like those steps to include exploring new technologies including drone and thermal surveys, development of a community-based approach to deer stalking, and adding deer management as a cross-compliance condition for farm support.

Landscape-scale deer management is the all-important tool in the woodland recovery toolbox. In Strathspey and upper Deeside, land managers worked together on deer management across the landscape, thereby allowing the pine woods to recover without the need for fences to remain in place.

That is why it is so welcome that the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity is consulting on modernising deer management for climate and nature, and that the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill creates powers to support co-operation between people who work in rural areas. Stakeholders have proposed a summit to discuss how working together across the public, private and third sectors could save the Caledonian pinewoods.

If we all work together across different locations, vocations and policy spheres, we can save our globally important, locally precious native woodlands, so that they can endure for centuries more and create livelihoods that keep people in our straths and glens.


Evelyn Tweed (Stirling) (SNP)

The debate feels especially pertinent as we weather the 10th named storm of this winter, storm Jocelyn, as a result of which we are facing mass disruption and power outages. Weather is becoming more extreme, and it cannot be denied that climate change is playing a huge role in that.

Biodiversity loss and climate change are twin crises. Climate change fuels biodiversity loss, but healthy natural habitats are important in removing carbon from the environment. Although woodlands in general can help to support biodiversity, Scottish Forestry says that native forests “will contribute the most.”

In her motion, Ariane Burgess rightly highlights that many of Scotland’s native woodlands

“will not survive without urgent action”.

I thank Ms Burgess, therefore, for bringing this important debate to the chamber.

An example of such action can be seen in the work of the Woodland Trust, which spent five years searching for the wild native crab apple—one of Scotland’s rarest trees. It is amazing that my constituency now hosts an orchard of 59 of those trees. The site, on the shores of Loch Venachar, is a genetic refuge for a tree that could otherwise have been lost forever.

The orchard sits in Glen Finglas, which is a hugely significant woodland regeneration project that is overseen by the Woodland Trust. The work there is repairing years of damage from overexploitation, and it will give wildlife more adaptability against climate change. Hosting a range of research, from PhDs and wildcat counts to experiments on the impact of grazing, the site has a national impact, too. It is part of the Great Trossachs Forest national nature reserve, which involves a collaboration between the Scottish Forest Alliance, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, the Woodland Trust, RSPB Scotland and Forestry and Land Scotland.

The project will have a 200-year lifespan and will become one of the largest native woodlands in the United Kingdom. The collaboration has already had great success. In the first 10 years, more than 2.5 million trees have been planted, creating a connected corridor of woodland. I would like to hear some detail from the Government on how ambitious projects such as that one will be encouraged. The project in Glen Finglas has had huge input from committed volunteers, as Ariane Burgess pointed out, and many conservation projects, both large and small, involving community woodlands also depend on volunteers.

Much of what has been achieved in native woodlands would not be possible without them. I thank the organisations for their work, and I call on the Government to consider providing support to make volunteering accessible—especially as the cost of living crisis continues to have a negative impact on volunteers and their time.

The Scottish Government has been ambitious in its aims, including those to create 3,000 to 5,000 hectares of new native woodland per year and to restore 10,000 hectares. It recognises the environmental benefits that forests and woodlands provide.

As the climate crisis becomes more and more acute, I would like the Government to support and empower volunteer organisations and communities to meet those goals.


Craig Hoy (South Scotland) (Con)

I welcome today’s debate, which was secured by Ariane Burgess, and the opportunity to highlight the important role of groups such as the Woodland Trust and community woodland associations across Scotland in their efforts to restore Scotland’s native woodlands.

Tree planting is a vital part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to net zero and biodiversity. In my region of South Scotland, native and non-native woodlands play a vital role in local tourism and bringing communities together. Community woodlands such as Gifford community woodland, which my garden opens on to, have helped to bring people together, and they create spaces for visitors and residents to enjoy. I take this opportunity to thank Neville Kilkenny, the woodland manager of Gifford Community Land Company, and its trustees for all their efforts—and for delaying any noisy work on a Sunday morning to give me an extra 30 minutes’ rest.

The Woodland Trust has supported tree-planting activities at Butterdean Wood and Pressmennan Wood in East Lothian, which I have been delighted to visit since becoming an MSP. In the Scottish Borders, which I represent, three of Scotland’s 11 heritage trees are located at Dawyck botanic garden, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors into Tweeddale and the Scottish Borders.

Scotland’s formal target is to plant 18,000 hectares of new woodland every year. That equates to at least 40 million trees planted for new woodland creation. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting Rodney and Craig Shearer at Elsoms Trees, outside Haddington in East Lothian. After only two years, it has become one of the UK’s leading independent seed specialists and native plant breeders. During my visit, I was told of the devastating consequences that the Scottish Government’s 41 per cent cut to the Scottish forestry grant will have on local jobs, as well as on the delivery of important environmental and biodiversity targets. I wish Rodney and Craig well as they develop their business, which contributes to the local economy and to the Scottish environment.

I have also heard from Alba Trees, another East Lothian-based nursery, which employs around 100 people locally and grows 20 million trees every year. Its managers, too, are concerned about the significant cut to funding that has been proposed in the 2024-25 budget. Make no mistake: that will come as a major blow for the industry and could undermine our forestry goals.

The proposed woodland creation budget is assessed by Scottish Forestry as being able to fund only 9,000 hectares of new planting, which is only half the annual target. That contrasts with the expected planting figure of around 13,000 hectares over the past 12 months. Both companies that I mentioned have also raised concerns about the administration of the grant, which neither accommodates the planting seasons nor addresses the production of trees, which takes between two and three years.

This year, tree nurseries will collect and sow seeds for trees that will not be planted until 2026. It would be worth considering the administration of the Scottish forestry grant, which operates on a calendar-year basis and is subject to overdemand and overapplication, meaning that trees are presently being cultivated that might not be purchased or sold.

The actual planting numbers have been erratic over recent seasons, falling to 8,190 hectares of new planting last year. That downturn was caused by a number of factors rather than by a lack of available trees. Nurseries took a huge hit in that season and millions of viable trees had to be disposed of.

A reduction in new woodland creation in 2024-25 will mean that between 10 million and 20 million trees will go to waste and may be destroyed. That makes absolutely no sense in a climate change emergency. It will impact the environment and cost jobs, and it is a tragic outcome for trees that have been grown to fulfil a national purpose and that could play a key role in helping Scotland to meet its net zero commitments.

We should be really proud of Scotland’s native woodlands, but they need careful management and considered, long-term financial support. That is why the Government should reconsider the savage cuts to the forestry budget, which will undoubtedly have a negative impact across Scotland.


Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Ariane Burgess for her motion, which provides a timely opportunity not only to celebrate our national native woodlands but to recognise the perilous state of our native species and to highlight the urgent action that is needed to save and restore them.

As we have heard, Scotland’s native woodlands face a range of challenges. Those include unsustainably high levels of grazing by wild deer, pests, disease, the impact of climate change, and the problem of invasive non-native species, some of which come from poorly planned commercial forestry that was planted in the 1960s to 1980s.

I recognise the huge importance of commercial forestry. It can help us to meet growing demand and creates important jobs. I see that in Dumfries and Galloway, where forests and woodland cover 31 per cent of my home region, making it the most forested part of Scotland. I therefore support an increase in the tree planting targets, but we must ensure that those targets are met, which they have not been and will not be following the grant cuts that have been announced in the budget.

We must deliver the right mix of trees in the right place. That means having a better geographical spread to ease the pressure that excessive tree planting puts on many communities, having a greater focus on restoration through natural regeneration and using more trees that are sourced and grown in the UK and Ireland. We know from the Woodland Trust’s landmark “State of the Woods and Trees 2021” report that Scotland’s ancient woodlands hold an average of 30 per cent more carbon than other woodland types, so we need not only an increase in trees to meet timber demand but a significant expansion and restoration of our native species.

Many projects are playing their part in helping to achieve that, and I will highlight one that is mentioned in Ariane Burgess’s motion. In the muckle toon of Langholm, which is tucked away in the beautiful Esk valley, a quiet land reform revolution has taken place.

Langholm moor sits on the doorstep of the former textile town and was part of the large land portfolio of the Duke of Buccleuch until recently. When the Buccleuch estate’s efforts to revive grouse shooting on the moor were unproductive, it promptly declared the land as surplus and put it up for sale. The moor’s dramatic hills, its native woodland habitat with amazing ancient oaks and alders and the stunning river valley are home to hen harriers and curlew and marked the historic boundaries of the common land for more than 250 years. It is little wonder therefore that the tight-knit community did what Buccleuch had failed to do and recognised the real opportunities that lay in the land.

Against the odds, a bold fundraising effort launched by the Langholm Initiative put the town on the map, captured international attention and raised a remarkable £6 million from thousands of online crowdfunding donations from around the world and £1 million from the Scottish land fund. In Scotland’s biggest community land buy-out, 10,000 hectares—more than 5,500 football pitches—of the duke’s land came under the protection and ownership of the people who live and work that land, which is now known as the Tarras valley nature reserve.

The community owners, brilliantly led by estate manager Jenny Barlow and an amazing team of staff and volunteers, are pushing the boundaries of ecological and community restoration. They are improving the environment and seeking to build a better economic future by pursuing sustainable and responsible tourism. Their vision and plans for the moor are truly inspiring. With support from the Woodland Trust, they are restoring and expanding ancient woodland on the moor and are mapping its magnificent trees so that they can undertake work to give those trees more space and light to thrive. They are also working to remove Sitka spruce from the land, and a native tree nursery has been established nearby. That work, along with the vision of the Tarras valley nature reserve project, has really captured hearts across the world, and this Parliament and the Government recognise and support it.


Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I, too, thank Ariane Burgess for bringing this very important subject to the Parliament.

I will be a little bit boring and mention some of the things that I have done in my life. In 1996, I started a project with a landowner that I was working for to replace 600 acres of Caledonian pine in the Cairngorms. It was a big project. We collected seed and grafted trees on to roots that had been specially prepared for them, and we spent £20,000 of consultants’ time to try to get the scheme through the local bodies that needed to be consulted.

One would think that it would be an easy thing in the Cairngorms to plant more Caledonian pine trees, replacing the forest, but it was not. It took nearly 10 years of my life, and I probably still bear the scars of trying to achieve that. Therefore, I absolutely believe that, if we are going to take this project on and do it properly, we need to make the process easier.

People might be surprised about my doing this, but I congratulate Fergus Ewing on something that he did in the previous session of Parliament, which was to try to speed up the process of getting consent. He went to Jim Mackinnon, who produced a report. I am not sure that it speeded up the process, but we jolly well ought to speed it up, because we need these woodlands now—not tomorrow, next year or in 10 years’ time. We need to start building them now and regenerating the stock that we have.

I say to the Government that it will have to do better at meeting its planting targets. Since 2016, I think that it has managed to achieve the targets that it has set itself in only two years, even though it has adjusted them downwards. We have lost 17,000 hectares of trees that should have been planted, and those could have been the Caledonian pines that we need to replace.

Therefore, I urge the Government and all the organisations that are involved in the project to set about more targeted zoning and planting of those trees. They need to work out where we want them and how we will get them. After doing that, they need to work out how we will get people to invest in them, because, as Colin Smyth has said, there are people who want to do so. Also, as Craig Hoy mentioned, the issue of planting grants is a real issue. Reducing the planting grants by 41 per cent—a £30 million reduction in the budget—does not really help. That will not get us more of those forests or protect the forests that we need to protect.

I agree with Colin Smyth, and probably with Ariane Burgess, about deer control. We need to do a more significant job on deer control. When the minister came in and produced a plan to kill more male deer, I spoke against that. It is not male deer that propagate the population but female deer, and we need to get on top of their numbers. I have asked the minister whether she is happy to come to the hill with me and some stalkers to see what the real problems are with deer control. I hope that she will respond to that in her summing-up speech. I have offered you an open invitation, on any date that suits you, to come to talk about the issue. I hope that you will find time to do that, minister.

Please speak through the chair, Mr Mountain.

Edward Mountain

I apologise, Presiding Officer. I hope that the minister will do that.

The other thing that I will mention on deer control is the importance of working together. Deer migrate from one estate to another. My view and understanding is that we can get deer numbers down one year, but they sure as hell pop up the next year if we do not make sure that we have controlled them.

It would be remiss of me if I did not mention one of the things that I have found most difficult, which is the introduction of beavers into the Cairngorms national park. I have found that difficult because they will eat the very trees that I have spent a huge amount of my life trying to propagate and move into the Cairngorms. I am happy to admit that, by signing off stalkers to kill deer, I have consigned to death probably about 25,000 to 30,000 red deer in Scotland. Then, having done that to protect the trees, we have introduced a species that lives on trees, eats them, fells them and uses them for their advantage. I find that really difficult.

In closing, I would say that, although I respect the huge amount of work that has been done by all the organisations that Ms Burgess has mentioned, there are other people—private landowners—who are doing a huge amount of work as well. We should encourage them, and we should make sure that they have the facilities to do the very job that we are asking everyone to do, which is to ensure that our Caledonian pinewoods expand and do not contract.


Bill Kidd (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

I thank our colleague Ariane Burgess for bringing the debate to the chamber.

Scotland’s native woodlands are a national treasure to be enjoyed by all. One tree that is often found skirting those woodlands like a guardian and protector is the Scots pine—an imposing, majestic giant looming over the land, reaching skyward and earthward and inspiring and connecting us. A decade ago, the Scots pine became Scotland’s national tree, following a campaign run by Scottish Natural Heritage and VisitScotland as part of the year of natural Scotland celebrations. That campaign was inspired by Scotland’s big five campaign to identify the nation’s favourite wildlife. The Scots pine topped the poll of Scotland’s favourite native trees and plants, narrowly beating the humble bluebell into second place by 1 per cent of the vote. You would think that the majestic giant versus the shy, retiring bluebell is hardly a fair contest, but, to me, the carpet of beautiful blue flowers covering the ground underneath the trees, with their leaves just starting to open, is equally majestic and a wonderful sign of spring returning.

I will go off at a very mild tangent to say that, as we gather to celebrate Burns night and the days grow longer, we are reminded of Burns’s connection to nature and his love of the bluebell as a harbinger of change, immortalised in the words of his 1890 poem “My Bonie Bell”:

The smiling Spring comes in rejoicing,
And surly Winter grimly flies;
And I rejoice in my bonie Bell

Old Time and Nature their changes tell;
But never ranging, still unchanging,
I adore my bonie Bell.

In my constituency, we have one of the most spectacular bluebell walks in Scotland: the Drumchapel bluebell woods. They are a haven for walkers, cyclists, families and, of course, various species of trees and wildlife.

Although the debate recognises the Scots pine and the Caledonian pine woods, it is equally important to recognise the important role that urban woodlands play in mitigating the impacts of climate change, alongside the effects that they have on our urban communities’ mental health and wellbeing.

Many studies have shown that regular contact with good-quality green space is linked to better health. Scottish Forestry lists a number of benefits, including anger reduction and attention restoration, alongside the restorative effect for people experiencing stress and mental fatigue. Among the physical benefits to locals is a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and other life-threatening conditions. There is also an improved social perception of neighbourhoods, alongside increased social interaction and stronger communities, an improved sense of place and a reduction in inequalities between the richest and poorest in society.

Groundbreaking research that was undertaken at the University of Dundee has also shown that green space can help people who are affected by early-stage dementia by creating meaningful experiences and increasing feelings of self-worth. As a result of a hugely encouraging 10-week pilot project, that woodland activity scheme is due to be rolled out in more areas of Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Edinburgh and Inverness.

I hope that the Scottish Government will keep a close eye on those programmes to evaluate the potential benefits nationally. It is evident that the diverse benefits cut across many of the national objectives that are set out by the Government. Therefore, I would be interested to learn how the cross-cutting outcomes are incorporated into Government thinking. I encourage the consideration of further research into the potential benefits of increasing cross-portfolio interlacing.

Woodlands benefit us all. I hope that such benefits will continue to flourish across the country.


Oliver Mundell (Dumfriesshire) (Con)

I thank Ariane Burgess for bringing the debate to the chamber. It provides a chance to talk about some of the positive aspects and untapped potential of forestry in Scotland.

I often find myself speaking out against tree planting in my constituency. As Colin Smyth mentioned, Dumfries and Galloway already has a large amount of forestry, an awful lot of which is commercial forestry, and I have grave concerns that those projects push ahead but represent the wrong tree in the wrong place. Many of the incentives and packages that are in place are geared towards commercial planting rather than doing what is right for communities and the environment. The large commercial forestry plantations are skirted by some broadleaf planting, but that is often on the least favourable ground and the trees are planted poorly, not cared for or maintained, and in such small pockets that they do not achieve the environmental and natural benefits that they would achieve if they were more concentrated.

Even in projects such as Langholm moor, which is very positive—an oasis in the desert—increasing numbers of commercial planting proposals come around, taking away some of the future opportunities for branching out. I understand that there is an economic benefit to having home-sourced commercial timber, but the Sitka spruce does not add much biodiversity. I am concerned that, in Langholm, as I think was mentioned by Colin Smyth, those trees spread out past where they were planted—almost like weeds on the hills—and the people who planted them in the first place do nothing to try to keep them within their existing boundaries. That is sad to see, because it wastes the potential for doing something better. That is only going to get worse, given the cut to the forestry grant, because, I imagine, in a race to meet planting targets a lot of focus will be on planting as many trees as is possible with the money. That is likely to favour planting large numbers of Sitka spruce in specific geographical locations rather than smaller native schemes.

The cut to the forestry grant should not happen, but, at the very least, I hope to hear from the minister that she expects such a cut to be proportionate and that smaller native planting schemes such as the planting of broadleaf trees will not be unduly squeezed in order to push ahead.

In the short time that is available, I will briefly mention deer fencing. In my constituency, a lot of unnecessary deer fencing is put up—often in scenic spots—preventing walkers and other land users from enjoying the hillsides. At Corehead in Moffat, there is a Borders Forest Trust project through which we see that, with careful management and other plans, there are alternatives and a better balance can be found, provided that the reason for planting trees is right in the first place and that it is not done to maximise economic return. The Government needs to do more in that space.


The Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity (Lorna Slater)

I thank my colleague Ariane Burgess for bringing the motion to the chamber, as I thank everyone who has spoken. I am delighted that, from every speaker, there has been a recognition that Scotland has the ambition to become a more wooded country and that it should do so. That means more of our native woodlands, our Caledonian pinewoods and our rainforest.

It is distressing that, as Ariane Burgess highlighted, only 2 per cent of our Caledonian pinewoods remains to us. We have experienced such a loss. We have gotten so used to having so many bare hills in Scotland that, in some ways, our ancestral connection to our woodlands has been cut. We have lost that connection.

People who now make their livelihood from woodlands show us the way of the future by providing chances for wildlife to thrive and by showing us how to re-experience the heritage of livelihoods that depend on the woodlands, in order to develop our venison industry and the eco-tourism and conservation jobs that are part of a woodland expansion, as well as to provide wood for craft and commercial forestry, keeping in mind our ambition to maintain that proportion of native woodlands.

It was very encouraging to hear so many people talk about the importance of collaboration and co-operation, including what our land managers are achieving in Scotland through collaboration with deer management groups, and what community groups have been able to achieve. Working together is how we will achieve this. It is not something that the Government can do alone. With the funding challenges of the current financial settlement, we all have to work together to get the best possible outcomes. I reassure Mr Mundell that we are committed to having that proportion of native woodland and to seeing the expansion of native woodland.

Many members have spoken about the impacts of climate change, including the storms that we are having in Scotland, and about the importance of carbon sequestration. In relation to the recent flooding that we have seen in Scotland, which we will only see more of as climate change progresses, we know that the right tree in the right place can help us to manage flooding and with catchment basin management. That is why we are looking at landscape-scale change in Scotland, and it is why land managers working together makes such a difference.

During the debate, we have heard about both planting and native regeneration. The number 1 risk to native woodland regeneration, as highlighted by Ariane Burgess, is the large number of deer in Scotland. I will address Mr Mountain’s comments about the deer and the beavers. There are currently an estimated 1 million deer in Scotland. There were too many deer in the 1950s, so legislation was brought in to manage them, but the number had doubled by 1991. Further legislation was brought in and the number doubled yet again. This Government has taken expert advice from the independent deer working group on what we can do to bring deer numbers down, because in areas where we wish to have natural regeneration—as highlighted by Colin Smyth—we must get deer numbers right down and significantly lower than they are now.

Edward Mountain

My first comment on deer is that they are not all in the areas where the Caledonian pine forests are. Secondly, if we are to reduce deer numbers, will we be reducing the numbers of all herbivores, including hares?

Lorna Slater

As Ariane Burgess said, the number 1 risk to the pinewoods and to the rainforest is deer grazing. The member mentions hares, and he previously mentioned beavers. This is pure mathematics. There are 1 million deer in Scotland and there are 1,500 beavers. The reason we need to manage the deer is that, in places where we need to regenerate Scotland’s woodlands, there are too many deer. Their numbers need to be brought down. There is a relatively small number of beavers compared with the number of deer, which is why we must manage the deer effectively to have that important natural regeneration of Scotland’s woodland and our rainforest.

Some non-native species were mentioned today, such as the self-seeding Sitka, which is a challenge that we need to face, but I did not hear any specific mention of the risks around Rhododendron and the work that we need to do to reduce that invasive species. Those are all part of the package of issues that we need to work together on.

I highlight the positive work that is being done for native woodlands by communities such as Arkaig and Langholm, which Colin Smyth beautifully highlighted, and in Perthshire and Argyll. There are more projects across Scotland’s rainforest and pinewoods.

I also highlight the work of the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest in bringing people together and energising landscape-scale restoration projects. The Woodland Trust Scotland is expanding and restoring the Ben Shieldaig Caledonian pinewood, which is part of Scotland’s rainforest, and it recently received £1 million of forestry grant scheme funding.

The Knoydart Forest Trust has created more than 400 hectares of new native woodland in the rainforest zone, has controlled Rhododendron at a landscape scale and continues to provide local jobs by, for example, purchasing an electric sawmill to increase the use of local timber.

Forestry and Land Scotland has been improving the condition of ancient woodland across all of Scotland’s national estate for more than 50 years. With funding from the Scottish Government, it is currently focusing rainforest restoration work on selected priority areas such as Knapdale, Glen Creran, Morvern, north Arkaig, Slattadale and east Loch Lomond. At Loch Lomond, it has consolidated and expanded the work of the past 27 years, converting the Ben Lomond national memorial landscape to a native habitat, and it has invested heavily in removing invasive non-native species in inaccessible locations. The work is slow and expensive, but it is vital to successfully removing the seed source.

NatureScot will also continue to restore, expand and improve the condition of its pinewoods at the Beinn Eighe and Loch Maree islands national nature reserve, and it will continue to support work on these iconic woodlands through the nature restoration fund.

I welcome the suggestions of how we can support the businesses that are developing the seed stores and nurseries. I am delighted to hear that there are businesses that are able to make their livelihoods by breeding and nurturing the seedlings of Scotland’s native trees. That is important work, and I look forward to supporting those industries and businesses as we work to make Scotland a more wooded country.

Thank you, minister. That concludes the debate.

Meeting closed at 17:56.