A disease threatening to devastate the UK’s ash trees has been detected in East Kilbride.
First Minister Alex Salmond announced the town as one of 14 newly-recorded Scottish sites infected with Chalara fungus, known as ash dieback disease.
Other South Lanarkshire sites recording the fungal disease were Lesmahagow and Leadhills.
Plant health experts from the National Trust and Woodland Trust say the discovery of the disease in East Kilbride does not mean it is spreading rapidly.
It is likely the disease has been present in these areas for a number of years, originally caused by spores blown in from mainland Europe, which causes leaves to turn black and drop off before the crown dies back and the tree eventually dies.
The fungus is harmless to people and animals.
The Forestry Commission said the disease is only infectious during the summer months so there is little risk of it spreading at this time of year, especially if those enjoying the outdoors, such as walkers, take simple steps like cleaning boots of any leaves when they leave a woodland.
The Commission would not confirm to the News which East Kilbride woodland was affected by the disease.
Mr Salmond told Holyrood the impact of fungal diseases on Scottish trees was “hugely important”.
Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse yesterday held a summit at the Scottish Parliament to discuss the best way to contain the spread of the disease. He said: “The latest scientific advice is that realistically it will be impossible to eradicate this diseasenow that it has been discovered in the wider environmentin the island of Great Britain and South East England in particular.
“Mature trees can survive infection for a considerable number of years and experience in Europe indicates that those with genetic resistance to the disease will survive.
“We will be working very hard to identify those trees that do possess a genetic resistance to the fungus and these will be invaluable as stock from which we can develop a supply of resistant trees for restocking our woodlands”.
In Britain there are an estimated 80 million ash trees – one-third of the entire tree population.