AN ENVIRONMENTAL body has “unreservedly apologised” for the deliberate poisoning of more than 300 ancient trees on a protected Loch Lomond island.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) destroyed hundreds of beech trees on Inchtavannach island by chemical injection during an operation which was initially agreed in 2013.

The government organisation planned to remove rhododendron and non-native species by selective felling over a five-year period, but the move was branded a tragedy by the island’s owners, Luss Estates, who said the site of special scientific interest had been left “looking like a wasteland”.

Now, after six years, SNH has issued an apology and offered to pay to clear the fallen timber from the island.

READ MORE: Trees 'vandalised' by Scottish Natural Heritage on Loch Lomond island (from 2015)

David Maclennan, SNH area manager for Argyll and the Outer Hebrides, said: “Although Luss Estates was party to the original management agreement in 2013, which posited the removal of rhododendron and, by selective felling, of “non-native species” over a five-year period, Scottish Natural Heritage accepts that the subsequent amendment, which proposed to kill all the beech trees on Inchtavannach in a single operation by chemical injection of glyphosate was not shared with Luss Estates.

“SNH apologise for what was, with hindsight, an error on our part. We should have ensured that Luss Estates was informed of and consented to the proposed operations.

“The speed, scale, and visual impact of the operation was much greater than anticipated, and we recognise that this has caused considerable detriment and upset to Luss Estates, and to Sir Malcolm Colquhoun personally. For this we unreservedly apologise.

READ MORE: Government quango threatened with legal action over 'poisoning' of Loch Lomond island's trees

“There remains a need to undertake works to remove fallen timber from agreed areas – and we have offered to do this through a new agreement.

“Looking forward, we remain committed to working in partnership with Luss Estates to protect and enhance the island for future generations.”

The dispute over the “environmental destruction” of the celebrated beauty spot appears to have reached an amicable conclusion, with Luss Estates’ chief executive Simon Miller saying: “After nearly six years, we are pleased that SNH has apologised for the killing of the beech trees at Inchtavannach and accept this gesture.

“Luss Estates are proud to be the custodians of these islands and look forward to working with SNH to protect them.

“Inchtavannach and other nearby islands deserve to be treated as some of the most protected countryside in Scotland, as national treasures and designated Nature Reserves.

"We hope to work with SNH in future towards this end.”

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