By Ian McConnell

Business Editor

EMPLOYEE-owned forestry business Scottish Woodlands has posted a rise in profits in spite of a fall in turnover arising from coronavirus pandemic effects in spring 2020.

And the company’s managing director, Ralland Browne, highlighted an appetite among investors to plant trees for timber production and wildlife habitats, noting potential for forestry to play a key part in a “green recovery”.

Scottish Woodlands, which is engaged in “supporting the whole process of planting and management of forests and woodlands, and harvesting timber”, yesterday reported pre-tax profits of £4.02 million for the year to September 30, 2020. This is up from £3.6m in the prior 12 months, and the increase was achieved even though turnover decreased from £115.23m to £108.42m.

The headcount of Scottish Woodlands, which is based at Riccarton in Edinburgh and is 80%-owned by employees, is now 208, having been 194 at the September 30 financial year-end.

Mr Browne attributed the “steady increase” in profits to “a continued focus on core operations”, and flagged forestry market strength.

He also highlighted the part played by Scottish Woodlands in ensuring “vital supplies...were kept moving” at the height of the pandemic.

A Scottish Woodlands spokesman noted forestry was identified as a key sector during the early months of the pandemic because it was providing pallet wood and packaging materials to keep goods moving, which “was so vital as people did far less physical shopping”.

Mr Browne said: “The results are a testament to the hard work of all staff over the year, and indeed the efforts of the whole forest industry, in working together to maintain activity and ensure that the vital supplies including medicines, medical equipment, food and fuel were kept moving during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Scottish Woodlands noted its recent appointments have included Emma Kerr, its “first full-time carbon manager” , adding that this reflects “the growing interest in the role of forestry and wood in tackling climate change”.

Mr Browne said: “Forestry and wood is very well-positioned to play a leading part in a green recovery and we are seeing interest from investors in planting trees both for timber production and for wildlife habitats. Their motivation is often linked to carbon sequestration as part of their wider environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”

The spokesman for Scottish Woodlands noted its timber was “pretty much exclusively” for the Scottish and broader UK markets.

He said the UK was importing around 80% of the timber it uses to make wood products, observing “there is huge domestic demand at the moment”.

The spokesman added: “Timber prices are high and, with global timber demand due to triple by 2050, this is likely to be a long-term trend.”

Mr Browne said the company’s graduate training programme continued to "go from strength to strength" and Scottish Woodlands would continue to focus on "growing its own".

He added: “Staff development and career progression to improve our service to our clients and grow the business are key priorities. We have had to adjust our methods during this year and move to online training and webinars to achieve that, so we look forward to the opportunity for face-to-face working and training again as soon as conditions and guidance allow.”