Native tree species are those which arrived naturally in Scotland without direct human assistance as far as we can tell. Most of our native tree and shrub species colonised Scotland after the last Ice Age (which ended roughly 9,000 years ago), with seeds dispersed by wind, water, and animals.

Scotland's most common native trees and shrubs include Scots pine, birch (downy and silver), alder, oak (pedunculate and sessile), ash, hazel, willow (various species), rowan, aspen, wych elm, hawthorn, holly, juniper, elder and wild cherry. For a full list of species (both native and non-native) surveyed in the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland (NWSS), please see Annex 1.

Scottish Forestry has produced a series of educational native woodlands videos, presented by naturalist Nick Baker. The main video, 'Scotland's Native Woodlands', offers an excellent introduction to native woods and why they are special.

There are four additional videos that give more detail on each of the key native woodland habitat types:

Policy relevance

All Scotland’s forests, woodlands and associated open ground habitats provide some biodiversity value. However, suitably managed native, and in particular ancient and semi-natural woodlands, including appropriately restored Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS), will contribute the most.  

Improving woodland condition is a strategic driver in Scotland’s Forestry Strategy and target in Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Scottish Planning Policy recognises the high value of ancient woods and semi-natural woodlands for nature conservation.

How can the NWSS data be used? 

Type of useNationalRegional/local authorityLandscape/site scale
Assessing the area of native woodland on ancient woodland sites and its composition and condition Yes Yes Yes
Assessing change from 1980s in the area, type and composition of ancient woodlands Yes Yes Yes
Updating the Scottish Ancient Woodland Inventory (SAWI) Yes n/a n/a
Planning action strategically or locally Yes Yes Yes

Using native woodlands data to develop proposals for grant support

You can use the data to help develop proposals for grant support under the SRDP.

  1. Preparing Forest Plans. Support is available for this within Woodland Improvement Grants (see below)
  2. Claims for support for one or more types of action described below:

Sustainable management of forests and Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS)

The sustainable management of forests supports the management of existing areas of native woodland and the restoration of native woodland from Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS).

PAWS provides full information on the composition and structure of ancient native woods (and nearly-native woods), and also for other areas of ancient woods that were identified in SAWI.

Native woodland management plans using NWSS

Areas of existing native woodland identified on NWSS can/should be highlighted in Forest Plans

For support under Sustainable Management of Forests, as well as the Forest Plan covering the wood there also needs to be:

  • a map of areas of native woodland and an explanation of the work to be done
  • a brief summary describing the ecological condition of the wood in relation to key attributes, and a summary of how the proposals will help to maintain or improve their condition. The current list of key attributes is:
    • stand structure
    • regeneration
    • herbivore impacts
    • species composition
    • threats and damage (includes invasive non-native shrub/field layer species)

Native and ancient woods are recognised in Scottish Planning Policy for their importance as part of our natural and cultural heritage.

Planning authorities are public bodies who are subject to the biodiversity duty in the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, which requires all public bodies to further biodiversity where it is relevant to their functions. Development planning and management take account of native woodlands as priority habitats under the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

Data from the Native Woodland Survey of Scotland can help planning authorities to prepare development plans that are based on a sound and consistent basis of knowledge of native woods.