The National Trust for Scotland has admitted to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) that its controversial project to restore the Caledonian pine forest on Mar Lodge estate, in Deeside, has not been successful.

In a telephone interview conducted in October, the National Trust for Scotland’s Alexander Bennett admitted to the SGA that after spending an estimated £750,000 in funding from Scottish Natural Heritage and culling more than 12,000 red deer, the project has produced virtually no new trees. He also said the National Trust for Scotland’s idea to restore the forest without input from professional stalkers, the use of deer fences or heather management was flawed.

The admission comes after the Deer Commission for Scotland said at a public meeting in Braemar in June that it also believed the 15-year project had failed. The SGA has now called for a public inquiry. Spokesman George MacDonald said: “The project was a total waste of taxpayers’ money. What steps are being taken to ensure that this flawed management plan, which was condemned as unworkable right at the beginning, will not be attempted again? The National Trust for Scotland should now be forced to pay compensation to neighbouring land holdings for their loss of sporting revenue over the years.”