Loss of 16m Scots trees to wind farms is ‘perverse’, says NFUS

A Scottish government admission that almost 16m trees have been chopped down on public land to make way for wind farms shows current land use policy is generating “perverse” outcomes, NFU Scotland has said.  

The figures, which were released in a letter to Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr from rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon, show the equivalent of over 1,700 trees a day have been felled since 2000.

See more: Why England’s onshore wind planning rules need reform

Ms Gougeon’s letter did, however, insist there was a planning presumption in favour of protecting woodland, and wind farm developers would be expected to undertake “compensatory planting elsewhere”.

The numbers were released following a surge in marginal grazing land prices across Scotland, with a push to plant trees being the main driver.

Lack of joined-up policy

NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “It is in everyone’s best interests that Scotland has a cohesive approach to land use and climate change mitigation.

“But these figures simply highlight the conflict that can be created by a lack of joined-up policy thinking between different Scottish government policy areas – in this case, forestry and renewable energy, and the pressure and knock-on effects that has for different land uses.

“Any perverse ‘green’ policy that puts further pressure on Scotland’s limited land resources must be fully assessed via a comprehensive cost and benefits analysis, taking into account the opportunity cost or impacts on agricultural production, loss of habitats, local community and economy.

“Actions should only be taken when it’s clear there is an obvious gain from land use change and not just to satisfy politically driven commitments to satisfy a green agenda.”

Mr Kerr has since gone back to Ms Gougeon to ask for clarity on how many of the felled trees have been directly replaced through compensatory planting, which species were replanted and which agency paid the cost of the felling.

See more