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MSP backs calls for more protection of Scotland's ancient woodlands

By Kirsty Brown

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A north-east MSP has backed calls to toughen up protection for Scotland’s ancient woodlands before a climate summit held at the end of the year.

Holyrood’s public petitions committee heard a submission from campaigners with the aim of saving Scotland’s remaining fragments of ancient, native and semi-native woodlands and woodland floors before the COP 26 conference in Glasgow.

The Help Trees Help Us petition attracted responses from NatureScot, Scottish Land And Estates, Heads of Planning Scotland and the Woodland Trust as well as members of the public.

Committee member MSP Tom Mason backed moves to write to the Scottish Government to seek its views on further statutory protection or improvement of existing law to protect woodlands.

Commenting Mr Mason said: “Native woodland has intrinsic value as well as major benefits to public health and wellbeing.

“Although there have been steps taken in the last two decades or so to protect ancient woods, there is more to be done.

“Updated national planning guidance will help councils in developing their own local plans, and stop non-native trees being planted and fragmenting ancient forests.

"The right trees need to be planted in the right place if we are to meet forestry targets while protecting biodiversity.

“We agreed that we are interested in what the Scottish Government’s view is on further statutory protection.”

In its response, Scottish Land And Estates highlighted a national biodiversity strategy that required 60 percent of native woodland to be in a satisfactory condition by last year.

The John Muir Trust and Heads of Planning Scotland recommended inclusion in the forthcoming national planning framework.

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