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ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland

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Use of NTFPs in Scotland

The following results are taken from a household survey made in 2003, funded by the Forestry Commission and prepared by NFO WorldGroup:

The survey

The survey was carried out via the Scottish Opinion Survey using 'Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing'. A sample of 944 individuals aged 16+ was interviewed, at 49 sampling points in Scotland. The sample was 'weighted' to represent the adult population in terms of age, class and sex.

Questions and answers

During the last five years have you collected any tree or plant materials, for example mushrooms, berries, cones or moss, in or around forests and woodlands in Scotland?

24% said "Yes". Levels of collection were marginally higher in the north of the country than elsewhere, and higher in rural areas (31%) than in urban areas (23%). Part-time workers (42%) were more likely to have collected these products than full-time workers (20%) or unemployed (20%). Collection was higher among the AB socioeconomic groups (32%) than DE (17%).

During the last 12 months, have you collected any tree or plant materials, for example mushrooms, berries, cones or moss, in or around forests and woodlands in Scotland?

The results for this question were similar to the first. 81% of those who answered "Yes" to the first question also answered affirmatively to the second. The main difference was that the relationship with socio-economic status was less apparent, and likewise the relationship with employment status.

Which, if any, of these did you collect on your visits?

  • Mushrooms (16%)
  • Berries (54%)
  • Firewood (14%)
  • Other tree materials e.g. leaves, cones, seeds, nuts, bark, small stems/branches (53%)
  • Other plants or plant materials e.g. flowers, herbs, moss, ferns, lichen, seeds (25%)

NB - the percentages given above are for the people who have gathered NTFPs in the last 5 years.

What does all this mean?

Any conclusions that one can draw from this survey are limited by the small number of respondents. The results do, nevertheless, indicate that substantial numbers of people are gathering NTFPs in Scotland, and that these activities appear to correlate to some degree to geographical and social factors.

What we do not yet know is the level of collection that this represents, nor its economic significance:

It is quite likely that many of the people who claimed to gather NTFPs are simply picking a few sprigs of holly at Christmas, brambles in the autumn or the occasional bunch of wildflowers. Others, however, may be supplementing their income from these activities.

It is hoped that further research will clarify these issues.