POLITICS: West Dunbartonshire Council lumberjack McColl turns tree hugger

Published 01 June 2021

By Democrat reporter

West Dunbartonshire Council is party to an ambitious pledge to plant around 18 million trees throughout West Dunbartonshire and the Glasgow City Region in the next decade.

The plan, part of the new Clyde Climate Forest initiative from Glasgow & Clyde Valley Green Network, aims to create an urban forest to tackle climate change will see West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl transformed from lumberjack to tree hugger.

Ten trees for every man, woman and child will be planted, increasing woodland cover across the region from 17% to 20%.

The project, which launched today (1 June) reaffirms the Glasgow City Region’s commitment to achieving net zero ahead of the city hosting the climate change conference COP26 in November.

In West Dunbartonshire, the project has kick-started with 600 trees planted along the southern edge of Faifley Knowes providing additional wildlife habitat and screening from the A810. Further planting will take place over the course of the next year.

Councillor Jonathan McColl, said: “West Dunbartonshire is proud to be working with eight other authorities on such an important initiative. The planting of these trees will not only benefit our residents and the environment, but also encourage and boost biodiversity in the area.”

However, Lumberjack Jonathan has previous for not looking after the environment.

The bungling SNP council leader, who wanted to clear the flowers out of their beds at award-winning Levengrove Park and refused to cut the grass in cemeteries and public open spaces until he was halted in his tracks, was accused of sitting on his hands while builders on local projects are taking their chainsaws to trees with impunity.

This has attracted the fury of an army of women tree lovers in Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven

The women appear to have a greater appreciation of this area’s environmental beauty than men like McColl, pictured right.

Community councillor Linda Speir, who lives at McGregor Drive, overlooking the site of the recently demolished council offices at Garshake, is livid about what happened to the trees there.

The area includes the old council car park and stretches down the hill towards the old lodge for Overtoun House.

Linda said at the time: “We’ve lived where we are for over 35 years and have looked out on glorious apple trees, silver birch trees and other lovely trees and shrubs.

“We have now witnessed the start of many of these trees being felled to make way for yet more houses.”

Pictured at the top of the page are the stumps of the once beautiful hawthorn hedge at the edge of the new cemetery which council workers were ordered to cut down by their bosses, who are, of course,  led by McColl.

Meanwhile, there are around 29,000 hectares of broadleaved woodland in the region, but they are fragmented due to urban development. The new planting aims to connect these woodlands and help restore nature and boost biodiversity.

Working to the principle of ‘the right tree in the right place’, the project team aims to plant trees in areas of deprivation, former coal mining sites, vacant and derelict land, urban streets and other civic places.

As part of the long-term plans, Clyde Climate Forest is  also calling on community groups and land managers to help them identify places to plant new trees, or replace ones that have been lost in the past.

Work is also beginning to encourage smaller land owners and local authorities to gear up for tree planting, with the offer of free woodland assessments to help them identify potential new areas to plant trees.

Councillor Andrew Polson, Joint Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council and Chair of the Land Use and Sustainability Portfolio for Glasgow City Region, said: “Trees are nature’s own green lungs, improving the air that we breathe and soaking up harmful CO2 emissions from our environment. Expanding Glasgow City Region’s woodlands to create a new inter-connected forest will provide many lasting benefits.

“There are opportunities for communities, schools, businesses and landowners to get involved in our planting mission. We all have a fantastic opportunity to work collectively to improve our living environment whilst tackling climate change at the same time.”

Welcoming the launch of the Clyde Climate Forest, Mairi McAllan, Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform said: “This is a significant and well timed initiative showcasing all that is good in tree planting as we approach COP26. It is also a first for Scotland, with eight local authorities working together with government and other partners on a major woodland creation initiative.

“Tree planting is key to tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and there is tremendous support for it across Scotland. The Clyde Climate Forest taps into this and the benefits will last for generations.”

Launching the initiative Councillor Aitken, Chair of Glasgow City Region Cabinet and Leader of Glasgow City Council, added: “This year we have an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Glasgow City Region and showcase how we are planning to adapt to and mitigate climate change while allowing nature to thrive and grow.

“New community woodlands, trees and forests will bring multiple benefits to our local communities as well as wildlife. The pandemic has brought into focus like never before the value of local spaces as places to exercise, de-stress and engage with nature and this project can help to deliver the Green Recovery.

“The economic, ecological and social benefits will be extensive.”

As part of corporate social responsibility commitments, businesses within Glasgow City Region are also being encouraged to get their staff involved with community tree planting projects.

Businesses and other organisations can invest in the Clyde Climate Forest if they sign up to a new charter which demonstrates their commitment to reducing emissions across their business supporting the fight against climate change.

The majority of woodland planting will be funded through Scottish Forestry’s various grant schemes but also through funding mechanisms that the Clyde Climate Forest can lever. Community groups and individuals can also donate.

Dave Signorini, Chief Executive of Scottish Forestry said:  “The Clyde Climate Forest will deliver social and economic benefit to the population of the City Region. It will also provide a place for nature to connect, recover and thrive.

“Planting trees can help us reduce our carbon footprint and strengthen communities. Scottish Forestry is always ready to advise on the range of forestry grants that are on offer so that we can collectively get more trees in the ground.”

The project secured a £400,000 grant from the Woodland Trust’s Emergency Tree Fund as well as £150,000 from Scottish Forestry over the next two years to recruit a project team and kick-start the development of new planting schemes.

The Clyde Climate Forest is being delivered as part of the Glasgow & Clyde Valley Green Network, with support from Green Action Trust, TCV, Glasgow City Region, Trees for Cities, Scottish Forestry and Woodland Trust Scotland.

Individuals and community groups can donate to the Clyde Climate Forest project through www.mypark.scot/ccf.

For business donations contact business@clydeclimateforest.co.uk


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