The biennial survey of public opinion about forestry has been published today. The Government is apparently pleased with what the public have to say but reading the actual results, they should, instead be rather concerned.
Let’s start with the statistic promoted by Scottish Forestry (above). The figure of 80% comes from Table 4.
It is correct to say that 80% of the public think that more trees should be planted – support has been steadily rising to a high of 92% in 2021. However, it has now dropped back by 12 percentage points to a level not seen for over a decade.
When it comes to the reasons why forestry expansion should be supported forestry with public money (Table 2), support for 12 out of 13 reasons has declined in the last decade following a generally upwards trend. Providing places for wildlife to live is a reason for public financial input was supported by 93% of respondents in 2021 but has plumeted to 54% in 2023. The same goes for climate change, the ecomony in rural areas, a place for recreatiton and so on.
When it comes to climate change (Table 3), there is a significant drop in support for forestry to tackle climate change compared to 2021 although the figures are marginally up on 2103 but still represent a signifcant drop agaionst the upward trend since 2013. Only 77% of the public think that forestry is good becuase it removes carbon from the atmosphere, down from 88% two years ago. The same percentage (48%) as in 2013 think that Scotland could offset all of its greenhouse gas emissions by planting more trees. I am not even sure that is true and it certainly is not helped by promoting a market in carbon credits that sees much of the sequestration offset by large corporations buying the carbon credits!
If I were the Government Minister responsible for forestry, I would be extremely concerned by these findings and would want to understand why support for forestry has declined so markedly.