Farmers, landowners and businesses are being urged by Scottish Forestry to repurpose any land not already in use by planting trees in the fight against climate breakdown.

Peter Gascoigne and Chris Blyth of Gascoigne Farm near Biggar have planted 40,000 hardwood and softwood trees on their 850 acre sheep farm over the last 13 years.

The addition of the forest has given the farmers a tax-free income, provided habitats for wildlife and captured carbon.

Mr Gascoigne halved the number of sheep they farm to 300 and says the forestry is securing income for the future.

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He said: "Trees are valuable. There's no inheritance tax on timber, or capital gains or income tax. And there are grants available.

"When we bought this place it was just an open valley. There was no shelter at all, the wind just ripped right through. On a stormy day the sheep are looking for shelter and by putting tree shelter belts in we are providing that for them."

More lambs are surviving thanks to the trees protecting them from the worst of the weather and savings are made on feeding the animals because, "when something is cold, wet and hungry then your feed costs go up", says Mr Gascoigne.

Wind, rain and low temperatures can also have adverse effects on the health of pregnant or post-partum ewes, some of which are mitigated by their ability to stay warm and dry under the canopy of branches.

Mr Gascoigne said: "Ok, you lose a wee bit of land but the benefits to husbandry outweigh that."

Recognising their environmental responsibilities as farmers and working towards a more sustainable business model has revealed other benefits to planting the trees for Mr Gascoigne and Mr Blyth.

Mr Gascoigne said:"As well as the financial benefits, it's been important for us as a business to move towards greater sustainability. By taking the opportunity to use under-productive or marginal land through tree planting we're able to minimise our carbon footprint while maximising sustainability and business productivity.

"Everyone has a role to play in Scotland's fight against climate change and we're pleased to be able to play our part through woodland creation."

The mixed-species trees also provide food for livestock and habitat for wildlife, an advantage Mr Gascoigne noticed after planting his first crop of trees in 2006 to create a wildlife corridor for red squirrel, pheasants, badgers and hares.

He said: "Back in the 60s and 70s [it was] seven days a week, winter and summer, ploughing up the land to make fields, ripping up hedgerows. If I can do something to address that now I will."

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The hardwoods he's planted now attract woodpeckers, tits, thrushes, blackbirds, woodcock and grouse: "I built a lake so I have frogs and newts, and I put trout in - it's not rocket science. Because the trees slow down water I've got voles. My muckheaps have worms, beetles and hedgehogs. I have 14 pairs of breeding lapwings because I left a field wild.

"We could all leave five per cent of the land for nature as a recompense for working it - there's space on every farm for wildlife."

Mr Blyth said: "Planting trees is a good answer for less productive bits of land and it give you timber for fencing.

"The problem is its seen as trees versus farming but it should be trees and farming. Trees are a way of doing something with bits of land that would otherwise cost you money.

"Some of the farm is productive, then there's good ploughable land. That's all about soil. If you're not testing soil, how do you know what fertiliser to put on it? If the grass is growing give it less nitrogen. Grazing sheep on it improves the soil too. Trees enhance the whole operation. They provide shelter for livestock, they stop water run-off and they take carbon out of the atmosphere."

Grants for areas as small as 0.25 hectares and up to £6,210 per hectare are available from the Scottish Rural Development Programme's Forestry Grant Scheme. Additional funding is also available for fencing and protection costs.

Forestry contributes almost £1 billion to Scotland's economy, according to data compiled by the government.

Virginia Harden Scott, Scottish Forestry's woodland creation officer, said: "Significant opportunities exist for landowners to maximise their business productivity and sustainability by adding value to underproductive land through tree planting. Many landowners we've been working with are already enjoying the benefits of woodland creation.

"Integrating forestry with farming offer valuable opportunities to maximise land productivity and diversify incomes."