THE naturalist Richard Mabey once wrote:

"To be without trees would, in the most literal way, to be without our roots." Mr Mabey does not specify which variety, nor does he discriminate among them, but his words ring especially true when one considers the Scots Pine.

Pinus sylvestris, to give it its Latin name, is closely entwined in the roots of many of us, a readily identifiable symbol of the nation. As such, it will be named as Scotland's national tree tomorrow after MSPs officially endorse its selection, following a three-month consultation conducted by Forestry Commission Scotland and an earlier survey by the Woodland Trust Scotland. This will be the culmination of a campaign by wildlife enthusiast Alex Hamilton, endorsed by, among others, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the John Muir Trust.

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The Scots pine will join the Lion Rampant, the Saltire and the thistle as emblems of the country. It has yet to be decided whether the golden eagle, as proposed by wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, will occupy a similar perch. It is good to see a debate on national identity aired without rancour.