By Scott Wright

SCOTTISH Forestry has underlined its commitment to decarbonising the sector by announcing a deal that will shift the transportation of thousands of tonnes of timber from road to sea.

The public agency has agreed a £2.6 million, three-year contract with Associated British Ports (APB) that will see around 225,000 tonnes of timber shipped across the Firth of Clyde from forests in Argyll to wood processors in Ayrshire.

It is estimated that shipping the timber instead of transporting it by road will save around 2.2 million lorry miles, and nearly 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. With 9,750 fewer lorry trips expected to take place on the A82 trunk road, it is hoped the move will also benefit communities and visitors who use the route, which passes the Rest and be Thankful and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Environment minister Mairi McAllan said: “Scotland’s forestry sector is a success story, providing a great range of benefits. It generates over £1 billion to Scotland’s economy every year and supports around 25,000 jobs.

“We want to help grow this prosperity ensuring that we have a sustainable timber transport resource to help achieve this.

“Where practical, I am keen to see a modal shift to coastal shipping and away from using rural roads, helping to decarbonise the forestry sector and contributing towards Scotland reaching net zero.

“I’m also pleased that this project substantially reduces the number of timber lorries having to use the A82, which is a key route used by rural communities.”

The TimberLINK service will see timber from Ardrishaig, Campbeltown and Sandbank shipped to ABP’s harbours at Troon and Ayr, where it will be forwarded by lorry to wood processing plants in Troon, Auchinleck, Girvan and Irvine.

Stuart Cresswell, ABP’s port manager of Ayr and Troon, said: “The TimberLINK operation out of the ports of Ayr and Troon is a real success story and I am delighted that this forward-thinking service will continue. The sea route not only reduces lorry traffic on rural roads but also uses less fuel and produces fewer greenhouse gases.

“This project has created many growth opportunities for local businesses, both in Argyll and Ayrshire, and I feel confident that they will only strengthen and multiply with this continued operation.”