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Minister questioned over Ash dieback plans

Scotland's environment minister will update MSPs today on the action being taken to halt the spread of the disease threatening to destroy ash trees across the UK.

Paul Wheelhouse held a summit held earlier this month to look at ways of controlling Chalara ash dieback.

14 infected sites were confirmed across Scotland including Eyemouth in the borders and Dalbeattie Town Wood in Dumfries and Galloway.

Commenting ahead of today's committee meeting, Mr Wheelhouse said:

"The Scottish stakeholder summit on November 13 was attended by a wide range of bodies and a number of useful and positive suggestions were put forward for further consideration."

– Paul Wheelhouse MSP

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Holyrood accused of being behind on tackling Ash Dieback

Representatives from forestry groups ,farming unions and landowners associations arrive at Holyrood this afternoon for crisis talks on how to stem the spread of Ash Dieback.

The fungal disease, has been confirmed at 14 sites across Scotland.

The meeting has been called by Scotland's Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, who's also a South of Scotland MSP.

Borders MSP John Lamont has accused the Scottish Government of 'dropping the ball' on Ash Dieback.

He said;

“While Mr. Wheelhouse is only just starting to get into gear when it comes to fighting Ash Dieback, the UK Government has already taken quick steps to tackle it. UK plant health authorities took immediate action on discovery of the disease and they soon after imposed a ban on ash imports and restricted its movement.

“In comparison we have seen the SNP dropping the ball on this issue and risking more trees in the Borders becoming affected by it. We cannot afford to see it spread any further in the region and the Environment Minister has serious questions to answer about why their reaction has been so lax.”

– John Lamont MSP

The Scottish Government says it is not realistic to completely eradicate the disease, which has spread across the UK. Mr Wheelhouse says work will get underway to identify trees that have a genetic resistance to the fungus and can be used to restock woodlands.

Holyrood discuss Ash Dieback

Representatives from forestry groups, farming unions and landowners associations arrive at Holyrood this afternoon for crisis talks on how to stem the spread of Ash Dieback.

The fungal disease, has been confirmed at 14 sites across Scotland.

In Eyemouth, it has affected mature trees in the wild. In Dalbeattie Town Wood around 4000 saplings have been infected.

The meeting has been called by Scotland's Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, who's also a South of Scotland MSP.

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Ash dieback disease spreads to Scotland

A disease threatening the future of ash trees has been found in seven sites in Scotland.

The Forestry Commission Scotland carried out a survey to measure the spread of chalara dieback. It five infected sites including Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway and Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders.

Chalara dieback is threatening to wipe out most of the UK's ash trees and has already killed up to 90% of ash trees in areas of Denmark.

The infected sites will be revisited for further examination

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the survey results should be "cautiously welcomed" adding:

"To establish the extent of the disease, Forestry Commission Scotland has been carrying out a rapid survey involving inspecting 2,730 ash sites across Scotland. Action is also under way to trace the destination of plants sent out from potentially infected nurseries.

"Only 5% of the sites visited in the rapid survey showed any potential symptoms meriting more detailed investigations and subsequent laboratory analysis and this work is ongoing.

– Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse

"In addition to the two sites already confirmed, a further five sites have so far been confirmed as being infected, bringing the total known confirmed cases to seven in Scotland.

"Further surveys, including more detailed surveys in areas around infected sites, will be needed before we can be confident about the full extent of the disease in Scotland. There is also the possibility of windborne spread of the disease from the continent and from infected sites elsewhere in these isles."

– Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse

The Forestry Commission said the disease only spreads in summer so there is now an opportunity to take action.

There is no risk to humans or animals and no need to restrict public access to woodlands.

Dr Steve Woodward specialises in plant diseases, he said:

"Around 30% of our woodland trees are ash and it hosts lots of insects, non-damaging fungus and of course birds and bats nest in it so it is very, very important ecologically and environmentally.

"The disease spreads through spores that appear on leaves or young twigs that have died. The fungus is in the leaf stock over winter and when it warms up in spring it produces these little spores - small discs - that are blown around and if they land on suitable tissue they will infect the tree."

– Dr Steve Woodward

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