Time is running out for ancient woodland

Ancient woods and trees are being lost across the UK at an alarming rate. Even here in Scotland, one in seven of our irreplaceable, centuries-old woods and trees have disappeared or been destroyed over the last 40 years. Our government needs to take real action to fix this.

There are some protections for ancient woodland already in place, but we are still losing some of our most valuable historic woodland to bad management and to development.

From public infrastructure like the Beauly to Denny power line which saw ancient woods built upon, to private developments like the 90 homes and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course approved on 25 hectares of ancient woodland at Ury by Aberdeenshire Council just last year. Plus, if the high speed train line HS2 is extended into Scotland, we need to make sure its route doesn’t destroy Scottish ancient woodland the way it is already doing in England.

Our most precious woods and trees face a fight for their future.

This autumn we need to take a stand. We need to tell the Scottish Government that we value our ancient woods and trees. We need to tell them that the loss of ancient woods and trees is not acceptable and should not be happening on their watch.

Why is the Woodland Trust focusing on pushing the government to protect old woods rather than planting new woodland?

Planting new woodland is very important, but at the same time we must protect the ancient woodland we have here in Scotland.

Ancient woods are our richest land-based habitat for wildlife. They are home to more threatened species than any other habitat, and represent the last fragments of the wildwood that once cloaked Scotland after the last Ice Age.

Today 18% of Scotland has woodland cover, of which native woodland makes up 4% and ancient woodland just 1%.

Why is the Woodland Trust targeting two ministers in the Scottish Government?

We are asking you to write to Roseanna Cunningham MSP (Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform), and to Angela Constance MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities), because they have the power to deliver true protection for ancient woods and trees in Scotland.

While ancient woodland protection does exist in Scottish planning policy, we are still witnessing its regular loss in practice. These two ministers’ departments are in charge of areas of government that can address this problem, via careful consideration of a new infrastructure project, enforcement of existing protections and by ensuring the preservation of ancient woodland is at the heart of future policy decisions, such as the forthcoming Forestry and Land Management Bill.

Why is current protection for ancient woodland not working in Scotland?

The Scottish Government already gives some ancient woodland protection through Scottish Planning Policy and the Policy on the Control of Woodland Removal. The valuable ecological contribution which our ancient woods make to Scotland is also recognised in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and Scottish Forestry Strategy.

Sadly these existing policy protections are proving inadequate. All too often the perceived benefits and gains of an infrastructure project are prioritised over ancient woodland loss.

This situation is on occasion compounded with a lack of opposition from government agencies responsible for ancient woodland protection to infrastructure schemes that involve ancient woodland destruction, setting a poor example for developers to follow.

What else can I do to help this situation in Scotland?

Unlike our castles and stately homes, ancient and other special trees in Scotland are not properly protected. These trees are natural history, and play an important part in our landscape and our heritage even today. They should be recognised as natural heritage assets by the Scottish Government and acknowledged as such in practice. You can support this call here.

What will happen at the end of the campaign? And when can we expect results?

If this is your first campaign action with the Woodland Trust, we hope this will be the first of many. As well as receiving an introductory email to the Trust, you can expect to be asked to support other targeted campaign actions when we need your help most.

What happens next in Scotland depends upon the government’s response. If it announces positive action to stop ancient woodland loss our response will be different than if we receive a negative reply. Either way we will be sure to keep you updated of all the latest happenings via our monthly campaigns newsletter.

Should I expect a response to my letter from the minister, and what should I do if I receive one?

We would expect you to receive a response from the ministers. How specific the response will be, is likely to depend upon exactly what you say in the letter we have created for you to edit. In our experience the more personalised the message the more likely you are to receive a personal response.

We would also appreciate if you would share any response you receive by emailing us at: campaigning@woodlandtrust.org.uk

How will the Woodland Trust use my details? Will you send me information about the progress of this campaign or others I can get involved with?

The Woodland Trust will not share your details with third parties or use them for any purpose other than what you have agreed to in taking this action. If you have ticked the box saying we can contact you again, we will let you know about future threats to ancient woodland in your area and other campaigns you can get involved in.

What will my donation be used for?

Any donation you make to the Trust will help us in achieving our organisational objectives of protecting ancient woodland, restoring damaged ancient woodland and planting new woodlands to help create a more resilient landscape for our natural environment. Both people and wildlife will benefit.

Is there anything else I can do? Chain myself to one of the trees, perhaps?

Policy action by these ministers is almost certain to effectively help save many ancient woods across Scotland, making a huge difference for hundreds of ancient woods and trees.

In terms of direct action, we do not advocate anything as radical as chaining yourself to a tree to save ancient woods and trees. We need to improve the system as a whole and this is best achieved through debate and dialogue.

Please help more people get involved by spreading the word - here's the link to use: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/save or make sure you share using the social buttons on the next page.

I'm standing up for ancient woods and trees


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Below is a suggested letter you can personalise to voice your concerns, aimed at Fergus Ewing MSP (Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity​).  If your concerns are acted upon, hundreds of ancient woods and trees could be saved.

Your details

Woodland Trust
Campaigning Team