Reforesting Scotland can provide rural jobs

Reforesting Scotland to at least the EU average would provide thousands of rural jobs as part of a Scottish Green New Deal, according to the co-leader of the Scottish Greens

Latest forestry stats show that only 18.7% of Scotland is forested, while the European average of tree cover is 40%. In contrast, grouse shooting estates alone make up 20% of all land in Scotland.

There are a number of skills gaps in the current workforce, which has long been undervalued.

Reforestation is essential in capturing carbon and tackling the climate emergency and can also provide thousands of jobs, according to research on land use. 

Ahead of the party’s autumn conference in Inverness, Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater and education spokesperson Ross Greer visited the Scottish School of Forestry in Balloch to hear about future careers in the industry.

Lorna Slater said: “It is fascinating to hear about the innovative approach of the Scottish School of Forestry here in the Highlands. It is clear that increasing forest cover in Scotland, which is critical to address the climate emergency, would also provide quality careers in the sector.

Research for the Revive coalition shows that forestry can provide a job per every 42 hectares, compared to one job every 330 hectares for grouse shooting or one every 183 hectares for agriculture.

“That’s why reforestation can bring new life to areas of rural Scotland that are too often treated like visitor attractions rather than real communities.”

Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer said: “The Scottish School of Forestry shows that forestry careers require a level of expertise that is not yet being met across the country.

“The Scottish Government’s current rate of reforestation would meet the EU average in 150 years, but even at that snail’s pace, it will need more investment to meet the skills gaps in the sector.”

Lawrence Carlile, a first-year student at the School of Forestry, said: “I am hoping to get into a career working as a forest manager. I’m attracted to this career as I believe that restoring Scotland's land to its original level of tree cover would be a great boost to the economy and environment of Scotland, and would generally make the country a lot more of an attractive place to live and visit.

“In terms of the climate emergency that we now face, I believe that drastic carbon emissions cutting and sequestration through nature-based draw-down strategies like afforestation and peat land restoration is of the utmost importance, and by reforesting the landscape in an ecologically sensitive way we can also go some way to help mitigate the effects of climate change such as droughts and flooding.