Ash Dieback - Crisis talks at Holyrood

Ash tree saplings in Dalbeattie Credit: ITV Border

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.

Organisations which have been invited to the summit include Confor, Woodland Trust Scotland, National Farmers Union Scotland, RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland, Ramblers Association and Scottish Land and Estates.

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.

But 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.”