By Alan Laidlaw, Chief Executive of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland

THIS year is the centenary of the founding of the Forestry Commission, marking 100 years of development in Scottish forest management. It heralds a new chapter of huge investment in the industry, which is now working towards securing the next 100 years and the future of Scotland’s woodlands.

Forests are an essential part of our country – supplying resources for manufacturers, defining landscapes and providing the world with massive carbon stores to help offset climate change. It is encouraging to see that the Scottish Government has announced that it is supporting investment in the future of forestry through the new Forestry Strategy to expand, protect and enhance this key land use.

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To help to mitigate the effects of climate change, Scotland also has a target of an 80 per cent reduction in gas emissions by 2050 (Climate Change Plan 2018), and forestry has a significant role to play in realising this ambition.

From a health and wellbeing perspective, the value of forestry in helping achieve a healthy lifestyle cannot be underestimated yet a Government report in February found more than one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. Clearly, we all have a role in ensuring our children enjoy the great outdoors and as the charity tasked with promoting rural Scotland, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) is committed to promoting the amenities Scotland’s forestry landscape provides.

Attracting new talent is a challenge facing the forestry industry, as it is with most rural sectors. There is a common misconception that a job in forestry revolves around manual tasks like planting, pruning and thinning, however, just like agriculture the opportunities span scientists, forest and conservation technicians, forest managers as well as highly skilled technicians. The challenge is to increase awareness and understanding of the exciting possibilities.

RHASS is committed to helping the rural sector engage with new audiences to ensure the sustainability of the landscapes. The Forestry area has always been an integral part of our annual event, the Royal Highland Show, and it has become a “must visit” section of the Showground for the nearly 200,000 people who attend the event each June.

Over the four days, town and country folk alike are captivated by the skilled men and women who provide an exciting snapshot of life and work in the forestry sector.

From a woodmixer sawmill and a wood fuel demo to the latest innovations using the latest of technology and equipment – the team are on hand to talk to the public and provide an opportunity to understand an industry that is often out of sight to the general public.

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On the recreation side, the Forestry Area has mountain bikers demonstrating the health and recreation benefits of forests and woodlands, and a real crowd pleaser is the utility pole-climbing competition on the Saturday where competitors race to the top of an 80ft pole in record time. There are carvers crafting stunning sculptures using only eye and a chainsaw.

As we celebrate the sectors centenary milestone, it is worth acknowledging the benefits forests bring to Scotland both economically and environmentally but also, in enhancing the quality of life for people living in Scotland.

If you would like to experience the best of the Forestry sector, visit the Royal Highland Show (today until Sunday) and meet the people who champion this industry.