SCOTTISH Greens want to reforest grouse moors as part of a dramatic drive to more than double how much of the country is covered in trees.

The party yesterday sketched out plans for an unprecedented effort to mobilise Scotland’s public sector to tackle both the climate emergency and inequality.

Dubbed a Scottish Green New Deal, the scheme - still an “overview”, say politicians - went well beyond forestry in to environmentally friendly housing, transport, industry and farming.

But it set out a target of increasing forestry cover from a current figure of under 19% to a European average of 40% .


Launch at Glasgow's Civic House, picture by Mark Gibson

The Greens have still to settle on a deadline for reaching their reforestation target but stressed this cannot be done without taking land away from what one its MSPs, Mark Ruskell, called an “anachronistic Victorian hobby”.

Scientists have long warned that devoting so much of Scotland to shooting birds makes little economic or environmental sense.

“Our landscape and wildlife are among our greatest assets,” read a launch document for the Scottish Green New Deal. “But much of the land is in the hands of a small number of privileged individuals and is dominated by bloodsports in the uplands in particular.

“This is leading to limited rural employment opportunities, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and a serious erosion of the public enjoyment of our land.”


Mr Ruskell

Scotland’s forests cover 18.7% of the total land mass area and the ambition contained in Scottish Government’s forestry strategy is to increase this to 21 % by 2032.

The figure was just 5% at the beginning of the 20th century. Scotland “smashed” current targets for new plantations last year, with more than 11,000 hectares of new trees, 40 per cent of them native.


Mr Harvie

However, the Scottish Greens’ ambitions would be far more dramatic with 60% of new forest indigenous species. Earlier this decade scientist Sir David Read proposed re-wooding grouse moors, changing the very colour of the countryside.

Sir David said: “You think of Scotland as the land of bonnie purple heather. That heather, apart from a few grouse, is pretty uneconomic.”


Ms Slater

A landowners’ lobby characterised Sir David’s remarks as “wildly inaccurate” with a spokesman saying: “Many people come to Scotland to look at heather-clad hills, they do not want to see blanket forestry.”

The Scottish Greens - whose green deal also includes “a major increase in government support and funding for community buy-out schemes that aim to restore and/or create native woodland” - can expect similar hostility.

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, the Greens’ co-leaders, yesterday visited a factory making kits for low-carbon homes, using imported timber. That wood, Mr Harvie said, could come from Scotland in the future.

The Scottish Green New Deal amounts to a first draft for its 2021 Holyrood manifesto and Mr Harvie stressed his party would go the polls with a fully costed platform.

The new deal is partly inspired by an agenda pushed by progressive Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It acknowledges that there is a limit to what can be done by whoever wins the next Holyrood election without independence “because critical policy areas remain reserved”. But the document believes the Scottish Government does have levers that could “set us on a very different path to the UK”.


Grouse Moor

The Greens believe that the public sector must be rebuilt to decarbonise the economy and point out how countries such as Germany and Denmark have used the state to recalibrate their industries. The public sector, they argue, should be leading on the procurement of green district heating systems, not least for social housing and redirecting investment from roads to rail. It should be the Highland railway line to Inverness that is dualled, they said, not the A9 road.


Grouse Moor

Ms Slater, speaking at the launch, stressed that renewable energy was no longer a “fantasy” and there was money to be made, as well as power.

And the state should also look to support private green industries, with the Green Deal “the core purpose” of the embryonic Scottish National Investment Bank.

Mr Ruskell summed up: “Imagine if Donald Trump were right and climate change was not real. Would be still be having a green deal launch? And the answer is we would.” Because of the other benefits.”