Confor has urged Scottish Government to do more to meet its announced woodland plants targets.
In November 2015, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised to deliver 100,000 hectares of new woodland in the decade to 2022, but the process has still a long way to go.
In particular planting targets could be affected by the long and complex approving applications process, exacerbated by the switch to a new computer system.
"We welcome the Scottish Government's planting ambitions, but if we are to deliver their targets, we need to get everything working better, whether it's new computer systems now or the process of approving new planting schemes in future", said Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall.
"Initially, the target required 10,000 hectares of new planting a year. We have not been meeting this and Confor calculates that we now need around 13,000 hectares a year to hit the target by 2022. This needs to include 8-9,000 hectares annually of productive conifer species - softwoods which supply the timber needed by Scotland's wood processing businesses. They are investing around £50 million a year, but need the long-term supply of wood guaranteed", Mr. Goodall adedd.
Forestry and wood processing represent a vital portion of Scottish Economy - as recently highilighted by a Forestry Commission Scotland report - contributing £1 billion to Scotland's economy and employing thousands of workers.
"If we plant now, we secure the future of rural communities where forestry and timber is becoming a real bedrock employer, from tree nurseries through to hi-tech sawmills. Planting trees also soaks up carbon and helps to prevent flooding by 'slowing the flow' of water in upland areas - as well as providing great habitats for wildlife and for recreation", said Mr. Goodall.
"We will also be discussing with Aileen McLeod (Scottish Forestry MInister e.d.) the importance of the government continuing to provide funding for the Strategic Timber Transport Fund. This fund has been enormously helpful in taking timber off rural roads - by creating new forest roads to bypass local communities. Where that is not possible, it has supplemented local authority's roads budgets to improve minor roads to make them fit for purpose for today's needs", Confor CEO concluded.