MEMBERS of a forest conservation group have quizzed a Scottish Government minister on peat digging.

When environment minister Màiri McAllan recently visited Leadburn Community Woodland she was shown an area of bog, which Friends of Leadburn Community Woodland (FLCW) have reclaimed from bare peat in 16 months, starting in the spring of 2021.

An FLCW spokesperson said: “We were pleased to hear that Màiri thought that the work so far was ‘inspiring’.

“However, we also took the opportunity to discuss how the restoration of our raised peat bogs contrasts markedly with several square kilometres of ongoing neighbouring peat extraction sites at Auchencorth, Whim and Springfield.

“These extraction sites are now devoid of any vegetation or wildlife, release their vast stores of carbon, when the peat is sold for garden compost, and have existing licenses to continue extraction until 2042.

“Although Ms McAllan insisted that the Scottish Government plans to ban peat from sale in garden composts in the next few years, it would be great if FLCW supporters could show the strength of local support against the peat extraction issue by emailing Ms McAllan and MSP Christine Grahame. To remind them of this huge contradiction in land use in our own backyard.”

Ms McAllan visited to see how the site is progressing since it was purchased from the Forestry Commission in 2007. Ms McAllan was told that some of the 8,000 trees planted include a mixture of native Scots pines, birch, rowan, aspens and oak.

The woodland also contains a mixture of open areas where fritillary butterflies thrive and purple orchids are plentiful along a path network.

Ms McAllan praised the work and said: “The work being undertaken by the volunteers at Leadburn Community Woodland is inspiring.

“For many years now they have poured their heart and soul into improving the woodland for the benefit of people, wildlife, and in tackling climate change. They should be justly proud of what they have achieved so far. The Scottish Government is committed to increasing community ownership and ensuring that communities can obtain the multiple benefits that are derived from woodlands.”