FORESTRY under Nicola Sturgeon's watch has "thrived", an industry figure has said after the first minister announced her intention to stand down.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the SNP leader said she believes the “time is now” to step aside but denied reacting to “short-term pressures” after a series of political setbacks.

The longest serving – and first female – First Minister said she will remain in office while the party selects her successor.

She said: “In my head and in my heart I know that time is now. That it’s right for me, for my party and my country.”

Sturgeon, who guided the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and led the SNP to repeated election victories at UK, Scottish and local level, acknowledged the “physical and mental impact” of the role.

“If the question is can I battle on for another few months then the answer is yes, of course I can,” the 52-year-old said.

“But if the question is can I give this job everything it demands and deserves for another year, let alone for the remainder of this parliamentary term, give it every ounce of energy that it needs in the way that I have strived to do every day for the last eight years, the answer honestly is different.”

During her time as first minister, Scotland's planting rates have greatly increased, with the country repeatedly making up around 80% of all new woodland created across the entire UK. She also oversaw the formation of Scottish Forestry and Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) – which replaced the Forestry Commission – and the creation Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-2029. 

Despite the success, Scotland has failed to hit its planting targets like the rest of the UK, putting fewer trees in the ground in the 12 months prior to March 2022 than it had in each of the previous two years. 

But reacting to today's shock announcement, Confor's chief executive said forestry had "thrived" during her tenure as first minister. 

"During Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office the forestry and wood processing industry in Scotland has thrived," Stuart Goodall said. "The Scottish Government proposed a 10-year Forestry Strategy, which was passed at Holyrood with cross-party support in 2019 - and Scotland is consistently planting 75-80 per cent of all new woodlands in the UK, with the resulting benefits for our environment and economy

"The two most recent ministers responsible for forestry, Fergus Ewing and Màiri McAllan, understood those benefits well and have worked collaboratively and constructively with the industry to deliver them. 

The National: Stuart Goodall Stuart Goodall

"These benefits include contributing significantly to meeting Scotland's net-zero ambitions, strengthening rural economies and providing great places for people and wildlife. 

"Confor and the wider forestry sector look forward to this positive relationship continuing under the next first minister."

McAllan was also among those to react, saying: "It’s been my honour to know and work with her."