Skip to main content

The National Forest Estate is a valuable national asset, providing recreation opportunities, supporting landscape scale restoration projects, wildlife conservation efforts, renewables development and community initiatives whilst producing millions of tonnes of timber a year.

A new report published today reveals that the National Forest Estate is generating £395 million Gross Value Added every year for the Scottish economy – that’s more than £1 million each day to support industry, jobs and many rural communities. Forestry and timber processing accounts for £285 million and tourism and recreation £109.6 million.

A page from the report displaying a forest and loch view

We take a closer look at two aspects of forestry that support jobs and the economy.

Forest Tourism and Recreation

Around nine million visits are made to the National Forest Estate each year, generating nearly £110 million. The National Forest Estate has 370 waymarked walking routes, 130 cycling route, four forest drives and six Forest Parks.

Forest Parks as key visitor destinations on the National Forest Estate are designed to provide a great day out for the whole family, with state of the art visitor centres, accessible paths, recreation activities and wildlife viewing opportunities. The attractions draw people to the area and encourage them to stay and use other local facilities.

Two men walking outdoors amongst green trees

Galloway Forest Park is the largest Forest Park in Britain, with over 300 square miles (800 km²) of outstanding natural beauty. Here you can meet red deer and wild goats, watch red squirrels through the purpose built wildlife hide, choose from two scenic Forest Drives, follow in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce or picnic beside a peaceful loch.

It is also Scotland’s first Dark Sky Park – one of the best places to stargaze in Europe. Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye, and the bright band of the Milky Way is usually easy to see arching across the sky.

You can also experience world-class mountain biking suitable for all ages and abilities. Kirroughtree and Glentrool are two of the seven internationally renowned 7stanes mountain biking trail centres that span the south of Scotland.

Forestry, timber processing and renewables

Wind turbine in a forestScottish forestry helps enriches our economy - 11,015 people are supported by activity on the National Forest Estate with forestry and timber processing accounting for 7,225 of this total.

Forest Enterprise Scotland (now Forestry and Land Scotland) generates around 80% of its income through activities on National Forest Estate, mainly through timber supplies but also through renewables.

The National Forest Estate can contribute a lot towards fighting climate change and developing clean and renewable energy is just one way - by 2020, we aim to have installed around 1.2GW of wind energy capacity and about 50MW of hydro energy capacity on the National Forest Estate. Our aim is to develop well-designed projects that achieve a sustainable balance with our other objectives. By the end of March 2016 we expect to have 989MW of operational renewable energy on the National Forest Estate.

Communities also benefit through community benefit payments. We have also negotiated with developers to enable communities to invest or enter into joint ventures on these schemes.

Employment supported by the leasing of sites for wind farm developments (turbine erection and access) was estimated at 681 FTEs, mainly associated with wind farm construction. Income from renewables in 2015/16 is forecast to be £8.4m, mainly from leases for wind farms.

Forestry is truly sustainable, with trees such as Spruce or Scots Pine being around for 40-60 years before they are felled and harvested and new trees replanted.

Currently, we have an annual harvest of around 3.2million cubic metres – that’s around 2.6million tonnes of timber, the equivalent of 93,000 lorry loads.

Timber stacks next to a forest tracks

Trees are sold and harvested in two ways. Around 40% is felled and converted in the forest to products such as logs. We then sell these products to sawmills who come to collect them. The other way is through standing sales – this is selling the timber crop as it stands in the forest. The purchasers then harvest it and sell it on. 60% of the annual timber cut is done this way.

Jobs are supported throughout the forest cycle; – from planting and harvesting trees, transporting the timber to the processors and finally replanting the felled crop to start the cycle again. Around 10% of the total harvest is done with our own teams and 90% through either contractors that we employ directly, or indirectly through customers who have bought the timber as a standing sale.

Timber is transported out of the forest on a lorry, with an average load of around 28 tonnes. (In a typical year, one harvester working on the Estate will fell around 28,000 tonnes, so nearly 100 harvesters are required).

Managing forests is a long-term investment which requires careful planning. We produce a timber forecast on a 20 year rolling basis as being able to predict future timber production is an essential measure to be able to secure investment and future jobs. Our aim is to provide a sustainable harvest of around 3.2million cubic meters year

The majority of all the raw material we produce and sell will be utilised in Great Britain in many forms from timber in our houses and gardens, to magazines that we read, or energy to keep us warm.