A curious row about trees in Scotland

A story appeared in the Guardian (here) and on the BBC website (here) about a joint campaign/press release by Mountaineering Scottish and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding the Scottish government’s plans to increase forest cover in Scotland from 17% today to 25% by 2050.

The joint press release (here) contained the following:-

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Mountaineering Scotland have written a joint letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, concerned at the potential impacts fragmented policy may have on Scotland’s rare open landscapes.

Both organisations fear a lack of joined up thinking could see the loss of internationally rare landscapes as Scottish Government pursues a policy of large scale afforestation without a blueprint to preserve its celebrated vistas.

In my view the reporting both by the Guardian and the BBC didn’t do the story justice. It led to many people interested in the environment wondering what on the earth Mountaineering Scottish were up to and what were they doing teaming up with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association?

The respected Guardian correspondent tweeted this:-


(no it doesn’t)

and the CEO of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said this.


However nearly everyone got the wrong end of the stick.

Mountaineering Scottish and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association were talking about the afforestation of the hills with commercial conifer plantations, they were not talking about allowing the Caledonian Pine Forest to re-wild or be replanted.

As a result Mountaineering Scottish issued a clarification – see here. It includes the following:-

In calling for an upland landscape vision and policy, we have highlighted one aspect of land use that we feel needs consideration at a strategic or policy level – the growth of commercial forestry. This does not mean we are against new planting, and we are in favour of native species. This reflects the views of our members as 94% who responded to a survey said we should campaign for the growth of native woodland and conservation of Scotland’s iconic Caledonian pine forests. 

OK that was in Scotland, but here in England we are awaiting Defra’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment – I will bet you that has something on ‘tree planting’ in it as well.

In a Dartmoor context increasing the cover of broadleaved trees in places where it doesn’t impact on the historic environment and helps reduce flooding will be largely welcomed but any plans for extensive afforestation with conifers will cause uproar (again).

More conifers will undoubtedly be planted but the debate is where and where not – that is what MS and the SGA were actually saying their campaign.



2 thoughts on “A curious row about trees in Scotland

  1. That was a bit slack of Mountaineering Scotland not to make that clear from the outset as they aren’t really helping the muddle that already exists around this issue.

    • It is a muddle around language – they did talk about afforestation which in ‘professional’ circles means creating conifer plantations …. as a you say a muddle which was unnecessary and unfortunate

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