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Forest Research home > Research > People, trees and woodlands > Evaluation and appraisal of the social dimensions of forestry

A valuation of the economic and social contribution of Forestry for People in Scotland

Health: A couple on the fitness trail in Camore wood. Dornoch FD.
Livelihoods: Harvesting team having a break and an on-site meeting.
Education: School children examine samples on education project. Ellens Glen Woodland. Edinburgh.


The ‘Forestry for People’ project provides a comprehensive valuation of the current social and economic benefits of Scottish forestry, forests and woodlands gained by the people of Scotland. The project lasted for two years and involved an interdisciplinary team of 10 researchers.

The following methods were employed:

  • Economic analyses of the market and non-market benefits of forestry
  • Two national Omnibus surveys, each involving a representative sample of 1000 adults
  • GIS-based viewshed analyses for economic valuation of the contribution of forests to the Scottish landscape
  • Questionnaire surveys of all known organizations in Scotland involved in forest-related activities
  • Two qualitative case studies of the Glasgow & Clyde Valley and Loch Ness regions
  • Literature and data searches.

The idea for the project originated with the Forestry for People Panel, an independent group of forestry stakeholders established in 2000 to advise Forestry Commission Scotland. The final report of the Panel recommended the project as a way to address the lack of evidence available to decision-makers on the social benefits of forestry.

Brief summary of the research and findings (PDF-219K)

Programme aims

Woodlands in Scotland provide the Scottish economy and Scottish people with many benefits.  But just how valuable are they and in what ways?  Building on the findings of a scoping study, this research programme assessed a broad range of social and economic benefits resulting from ‘forestry for people’ activities in Scotland.

It captures value at the national (Scottish) scale but also provides some local and regional level insights from two contrasting case study regions which reveal how benefits are experienced in the day-to-day lives of local people.

Research objectives

The research was organized around a framework of 30 quantitative indicators, distributed between seven themes:

  • Employment and volunteering
  • Contribution to the economy
  • Recreation and accessibility
  • Learning and education
  • Health and well-being
  • Culture and landscape
  • Community capacity.

Key findings

Perhaps the most important overall finding is the broad range and scale of economic and social benefits that are derived from forests and forest-related activities in Scotland. The results, for the most part, reinforce the growing recognition that Scottish forestry can deliver on several new governmental agendas, such as improving quality of life, tackling social exclusion, and promoting sustainable lifestyles.

Headline figures show that forestry makes a significant contribution to Scotland’s economy and society on a number of fronts.

  • The total employment (i.e. direct, indirect and induced) in the Scottish forestry sector associated with the use of Scottish timber is estimated to be 13,200 Full-Time Equlvalent (FTE) jobs.
  • The number of volunteers in forest-related work in Scotland is estimated to be around 7,500.
  • The total Gross Value Added (GVA) (direct, indirect and induced) associated with Scottish timber is estimated to be around £460 million.
  • Over the last 5 years, the annual number of visits to forests by Scottish adults ranged between 37-68 million. In addition, in 2006/07, an estimated 63.5% of Scottish children made a total of 11.6 million visits to Scottish woodlands.
  • The non-market value of visits to Scottish woodlands by Scottish adults is estimated to be between £44 million and £76 million per year.
  • Around 1500 public events were organized by the FC in 2006/07, involving around 134,000 visits.
  • An estimated 24% of Scottish children have visited woodland in the previous 12 months as part of a nursery or school trip, making a total of around 510,000 visits. The FC works with an estimated 20% of schools in Scotland.
  • Around 5% of the Scottish adult population had been on an organized event in a wood that involved physical activity in the previous 12 months.
  • Around 82% of the Scottish adult population agree or strongly agree that woodlands are places to reduce stress and anxiety, while 79% agree or strongly agree that woodlands are places to exercise and keep fit.
  • Approximately 557,000 people in Scotland have visible woodland within 1 km of their homes, while 275,000 people have visible woodland within 300 m of their homes.
  • An estimated 95% of the Scottish adult population agree or strongly agree that woodlands in Scotland are an important part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage.

Funders and partners

Forestry Commission logo
The programme was funded jointly by Forestry Commission and  Forestry Commission Scotland.

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry for people has become a major objective for forestry in Scotland with forestry policy and activities increasingly incorporating the provision of benefits to people in terms of their health and well-being, their learning and education, their ability to sustain a living and their ability to contribute to the viability and vibrancy of their local community.  This is reflected in local and regional forestry plans and activities as well as the national Scottish Forestry Strategy which, amongst other objectives, seeks to:

  • Create a diverse forest resource of high quality that will contribute to the economic needs of Scotland throughout the 21st century and beyond
  • Create opportunities for more people to enjoy trees, woods and forests in Scotland
  • Help communities benefit from woods and forests.

Programme reports


The evaluation began in April 2006 and was completed in April 2008.

The full final report (Forestry Commission Research Report 101), and a summary of the main findings (Forestry Commission Research Note 102) can both be downloaded (see above). Printed copies are also available from Forestry Commission Publications.


David Edwards