365 Reforestation Stories – Story #2: Reforesting Scotland


As some of you might know, Scotland used to be a very forested region; after the last Ice Age with boreal coniferous trees and later with species that are common to a more temperate climate – until about 5,000 years ago. Since then, the forest cover has been on a decline, and the area covered by forests in Scotland was down to an astonishing 5% during the early 1900s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forestry_in_Scotland). After that, though, things have fortunately improved, and according to the same source (ibid.), the forest cover was up to 18.5% in 2019. For comparison, Finland has about 65% of land area covered by forests, and Russia around 50%, for example.

The decline of Scotland’s forests was due to many different factors such as the emergence of agriculture and industry where woodland areas were turned into farmland and trees were used as timber or for charcoal as fuel. However, replanting trees has been conducted throughout the last few centuries, and in 1919 the Forestry Commission was established to address the need to grow more timber which was in great demand during WW I, and the need was dire again during the WW II.

After that, and until the recent years, the forested area has steadily grown, but not as much and as fast as many would have hoped.

Established in 1991, and the base of operations located in Edinburgh, Reforesting Scotland is one of many organizations involved in promoting forest life and forest living in a sustainable way, and reforestation is one of its many goals. According to its website, Reforesting Scotland aims to:

  • Promote a sustainable forest culture and economy in a well-forested land
  • Develop the use of locally-produced forest goods and services
  • Encourage social and ecological restoration in forests and in wider land use
  • Raise awareness of the benefits of low-energy living based on woodland resources
  • Place the Scottish forestry situation in an international context.

According to Ms. Liz Murdoch, a member and representative of Reforesting Scotland, tells me the organisation doesn’t own land or manage it like for example, the Woodland Trust or plant as many trees as for example the Trees for Life.

If I have understood correctly, Reforesting Scotland acts more as an educator and a facilitator through workshops, publishing work, seminars etc. As forests, peatlands and wetlands, for example, are complex ecosystems, the workings of those ecosystems and their connection to other systems must be understood, and the relationships between forestry and other types of land use have to be taken into consideration.

Planting trees is mainly accomplished via the grants the organisation gives out both to members and non-members upon application and if certain criteria are met. The applicants should provide details as to how much the planting project would cost, what is the area that will be planted (maximum of 0,1 hectares – or 1,000 square metres)*, where the trees will be planted and when, what species will be planted and if they are appropriate for that place (site ecology and type, soil properties, etc.), and how the trees will be protected from being eaten by wild animals and/or livestock.

Diving deeper into how land is used in different countries, is an interesting topic indeed. Will be approaching that in some later posts.

* In comparison, the largest areas of privately owned land in Scotland are about or above 200,000 acres per owner (over 80,000 hectares!)…(https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/20/report-calls-for-reform-of-unhealthy-land-ownership-in-scotland). The Guardian also states that: ”The government believes 57% of rural land is in private hands, with about 12.5% owned by public bodies, 3% under community ownership and about 2.5% is owned by charities and other third sector organisations. The remainder is thought to be owned by smaller estates and farms which are not recorded in those figures.”

According to Ilta-sanomat, the three largest landowners in Finland own over 6,000 hectares (3rd), over 8,800 hectares (2nd) and over 10,000 hectares (1st), and the 100 largest landowners over 195,000 hectares all put together.

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