Scottish National Party (SNP) ministers chopped down close to 16 million trees on public land, as part of plans to get all of Scotland’s power from renewable energy by this year.
Mairi Gougeon, the Rural Affairs Secretary, has conceded that around 15.7 million trees have been cleared since 2000 from areas presently managed by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). This equates to over 1,700 trees felled daily.
Criticisms have arisen over what they describe as a hypocritical eco-crusade, despite Gougeon insisting on a planning presumption in favor of protecting woodland and expecting wind farm developers to undertake “compensatory planting elsewhere.”
Scottish Tory MSP Liam Kerr voiced worries voiced by “communities all over the country” while expressing astonishment at the figures.
The SNP targets include replacing existing turbines with even taller and larger ones; some developers are proposing turbines up to 850 feet tall – equivalent to more than 60 double-decker buses.
In a letter to Mr. Kerr, Ms. Gougeon detailed that 7,858 hectares of trees had been felled for wind farms – an estimated total of 15.7 million trees – citing many were part of commercial crops that would have been felled eventually regardless.
Mr. Kerr responded by raising concerns about visual impact, wildlife damage and harm done to businesses, he noted most people would be “astonished” by the numbers given their scale and scope.
From Herald Scotland:
Steve Micklewright, CEO of Trees for Life, said: “It seems deeply ironic that trees are being felled to make way for windfarms when both healthy growing forests and renewable energy are important in resolving the global climate emergency.
“Woodlands that are ancient or of high conservation value should not suffer from mass felling because other rare and endangered plants and animals can be lost too. In other locations, such as plantations where the trees would have been harvested anyway, a pragmatic approach would be to ensure the timber is used for buildings or other uses that will not release the carbon stored in the trees back into the atmosphere.”
Lyndsey Ward, a Highlands wind farm activist, said: “Not only are millions of CO2 absorbing trees being felled for turbines, hundreds of thousands of acres of ancient carbon-holding peat are being dug up too.
“These figures are astronomical enough, but if you add in the infrastructure requirements and grid connections, many more trees will have been sacrificed and peat lost as remote wind factories are connected to a grid that cannot cope with them.”
The Scottish Government has pledged to cover more than one fifth of Scotland’s land area with trees by 2032 in a bid to help tackle the clime emergency.
Erica Carlin is an independent journalist, opinion writer and contributor to several news and opinion sources. She is based in Georgia.