IT could be the most important root and branch review in Scottish history, as a consultation has been launched today on whether Scotland should have a national tree.
The public is being asked to give their views on the idea of adopting one species of tree as an official symbol for the country – and which one they would choose.
The move was sparked by a petition to the Scottish Parliament from campaigner Alex Hamilton, who argued a national tree would be a “symbolic statement of a nation’s aspirations and its commitment to woodland”.
He wants the Scots pine to be given the honour, since it is the largest and longest-lived tree in the Caledonian Forest which once covered vast areas of Scotland.
Now the Scottish Government has taken up the issue and Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse was at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh today to launch the three-month consultation.
He said: “People in Scotland have a great affection for trees. Our woodlands and forests are part and parcel of our heritage and shape our often rugged, green and stunning landscapes and they play a vital role as green lungs, storing carbon and improving air quality.
“A national tree could be a powerful symbol to help raise the profile of trees and their contribution to so many aspects of today’s society. At no time has it been more important, as some of our woodlands are currently under threat from a number of serious tree health problems.
“We would like to hear from as many people as possible, both young and old, on whether they would like a national tree of Scotland.”
Liz Stewart, of Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust, welcomed the idea.
She said: “Trees are such an important part of our work here at the trust and many of the activities we run are in a woodland setting, for all the educational, therapeutic, biodiverse and inspirational benefits trees can offer.”
She said it was hard to pin down a favourite candidate for the role, but the consensus at the trust was for the Scots pine.
Green councillor Gavin Corbett said he would opt for the silver birch because it was “the mainstay of the former great temperate rainforest in the West Highlands”.
He said: “There’s only value in picking out one symbolic plant if it means we take much more seriously all of the natural richness Scotland has: from midges and nettles to the hugest trees. Otherwise, it is just a cosmetic cover for a lost heritage.”
Robin McLaren, chair of the Friends of Craiglockhart Woods, which is campaigning for a community woodland at Craighouse, backed the idea. He said: “If it gets people thinking about trees and adopting trees, that’s a good thing. Most people will think of the Scots pine as symbolising Scotland and that would be my personal choice. It would be a good reminder of what we need to achieve to bring back our forests.”
To give views on a national tree, log on at www.forestry.gov.uk/scotlandsnationaltree.The consultation will end on December 3.