Scottish Government hopeful of protecting ash woodlands

The Scottish Government has said there is the possibility of protecting the internationally important Atlantic ash woodlands located in the north west of Scotland.

A Scottish Government representative Yvonne Hay said: "It is thought that the low density of ash in the neighbouring areas, the geographical separation and the shelter from the current wider environment outbreaks will enable this to be achieved along with a programme of work in a buffer zone.

"Further surveys over the coming winter months should allow a decision to be made by summer 2014 to determine whether there is a realistic prospect of seeking protected zone designation. Until then the current import and movement restrictions will remain in place."

Import and movement restrictions on ash planting material entering Great Britain were introduced in October 2012 through The Plant Health (Forestry) Amendment Order 2012 and, for ash plants not intended for forestry use in Scotland, The Plant Health (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2012).

The Scottish Government has also adopted English changes to Ceratocystis platani (Plane wilt) and Cryphonectria parasitica (Chestnut blight) import rules.

Defra and the Forestry Commission have introduced legislation to strengthen existing measures to combat both diseases. This means planting material of Castanea (including seeds) and Plantanus landing via English ports will, in addition to pre-notification requirements, need certain accompanying documents confirming the place of production is in an area where the diseases are known not to occur, or have been designated by Plant Health Authorities as disease free. These conditions also apply to wood of Platanus for the forestry sector.

The form and content of such officially approved documentation will be decided by the relevant Plant Health Authority in the countries concerned. Castanea (including seeds) and Plantanus moving to England will also require documentation and existing authorisations for plant passports will be used to meet the requirements of the new national measures.

Hay said: "We believe that most affected nurseries will already be authorised for passporting, but new authorisations will be considered by the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit as necessary. The Scottish Government, intends to introduce similar requirements for Scotland and this is likely to be introduced by the end of the year. We will write to you again before this legislation comes into force."

Defra has also introduced statutory notification of planting material of Pinus (pine) landing via English ports from other EU countries. This brings it in line with the requirements for Scotland.

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