SCOTLAND can be "justifiably proud" of its forestry sector as it continues to "punch above its weight".
That's the view of the country's environment minister, who believes the industry will have a "significant role" in tackling both the climate and biodiversity crises amid increased demand for home-grown timber.
Mairi McAllan made the comments in the foreword of a newly published report on the progress being made on Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-2029 – a major plan of action to expand, protect and enhance the nation's forests and woodlands.
While widely positive about Scotland's forestry, several crucial targets from the framework were found not to be being met, including the annual total hectares of new woodland created. By now, this should stand - at least - at 12,000 ha, with 14,000 ha due between 2022/23.
However, just 10,660 ha were put in the ground in the 12 months prior to March 2022, the fewest in three years; albeit, this number is slightly higher than the figure reported by Forest Research earlier this year.
McAllan wrote: "Forestry in Scotland is a sector that we can be justifiably proud of.
"Forestry has a significant role in confronting not just the twin global climate and biodiversity crises but also the increase in global demand for timber and wood fibre that we face today and into the future. Tackling these global challenges through woodland expansion rightly has strong cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament.
"And Scotland is punching above its weight when it comes to forestry, with nearly 80 per cent of all new woodlands in the UK created right here in Scotland.
"This report marks an important milestone since the devolution of forestry and sets out the first steps that we and our partners have taken to realise the Strategy’s 50-year vision; to expand our forests and woodlands and increase the benefits they deliver to Scotland’s people now and into the future."
According to the document, around 70% of the 30 key actions that were intended to be met by now have been. This includes the "coordination of cross UK work to prepare for the next UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) review" and to "consult stakeholders on revised woodland creation targets and publish an updated Climate Change Plan".
However, the "publication of a study on the economic contribution of the forestry sector" was among the targets yet to be met.
McAllan added: "As a score card, the report says significant progress has been made, but it also signals that we must not rest on our laurels.
"We need to continue to build and maintain strong partnerships with many land use sectors if we are to realise the full scale and range of benefits that sustainably created and managed woodlands can deliver for Scotland.
"Central to this is ensuring that we create woodlands with the right tree in the right place, and for the right reasons."
The full report can be read here.