Stakeholder summit to discuss Chalara dieback of ash in Scotland

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Key stakeholders from the forestry, environmental and land-based industries are to meet next week for a Scottish Chalara Summit to discuss the disease and help formulate a strategy on managing it in the future.

The disease is only infectious during the summer months so there is currently very little risk of it spreading at this time of year, especially if those enjoying the outdoors, such as walkers, take simple steps like cleaning boots of any leaves when they leave a woodland.

Laboratory results arising from samples taken as part of this week’s rapid survey of 2,730 ash sites in Scotland are providing vital information which will be discussed at the summit.

The latest figures show 14 confirmed sites in Scotland, two of which involve mature trees in the natural environment. More confirmations are expected as this and subsequent surveys help to identify the current extent of the disease in Scotland.

The latest developments on Chalara in Scotland were discussed today at the UK COBR Committee meeting, with Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, representing Scottish interests.

Environment & Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who will be hosting the Summit at the Scottish Parliament, said:

“The disease is only infectious during the height of summer and so we have a good window of opportunity now to gather the best scientific advice available so that, with key stakeholders, we can chart a sensible way forward on managing Chalara dieback of ash in Scotland. 

“The rapid action survey is now feeding in very useful results but this is the first step in a much longer journey for us all.  The situation will remain fluid and continued vigilance will be required as we assess the disease’s likely extent.

“We now have two cases involving mature trees in the natural environment. While this is disappointing, we should consider this in the context of the much greater extent of the disease in the wider environment in the south of England. 

“The latest scientific advice is that realistically it will be impossible to eradicate this disease now that it has been discovered in the wider environment in the island of Great Britain and South East England in particular.  Attempts to do so would involve wholesale destruction of ash trees and ash woodlands, with no guarantees of success, and this would hamper efforts to identify resistant strains of ash as well as causing considerable damage to the wider ecosystem.

“Mature trees can survive infection for a considerable number of years and experience in Europe indicates that those with genetic resistance to the disease will survive. We will be working very hard to identify those trees that do possess a genetic resistance to the fungus and these will be invaluable as stock from which we can develop a supply of resistant trees for restocking our woodlands”

A large number of organisations have been invited to the stakeholder summit including: Confor; Woodland Trust Scotland; National Farmers Union Scotland;  Environment Link; RSPB Scotland; WWF Scotland; Ramblers Association and Scottish Land and Estates.

Notes to news editors

1. The list of 14 sites now confirmed in Scotland are as follows:

Private nursery       North East
New Planting          Near Glendevon  (new)
New Planting          Near Blairgowrie
New Planting          Near Carrbridge
New Planting          Near Castle Douglas (FCS)
New Planting          Near Cowdenbeath (new)
New Planting          Near East Kilbride
New Planting          Near Kilmacolm (FCS)
New Planting          Near Leadhills
New Planting          Near Lesmahagow (FCS)
New Planting          Near Montrose
New Planting          Near Scone
Wider Environment  Near Eyemouth
Wider Environment  Near Kinghorn (new)

2.  Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate

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4. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde.

5) Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508/7.  For out of hours please email both and if urgent – both are travelling this evening.