A LEADING Scots academic and historian has questioned claims about the decline of the Scots pine.

Professor Chris Smout, Professor Emeritus in History at St Andrews and former deputy chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, says the alleged decline of the Scots pine ignores research that shows it is not clear how prevalent the tree was in Scotland.

His comments come as MSPs have agreed to contact ministers over a plea to make the "iconic" species the country's national tree.

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While welcoming the move, Mr Smout, the Historiographer Royal in Scotland and founder of the Institute for Environmental History, said: "The statistic that only 1% of the area once occupied by Scots pine remains under pine today is highly misleading." He said planting in areas where it has never grown "is not restoring lost ecosystems but making up new ones".