An ambitious Bill for Scottish Forestry

21 June 2017

The Scottish Government's ambition to plant more trees should be enshrined in the new Forestry and Land Management Bill, Confor's CEO told a Scottish Parliament committee today.

Stuart Goodall told the Rural Affairs & Connectivity Committee that the 1967 Forestry Act included a clear aspiration to expand the forest resource - and that the legislation which succeed it should do the same. 

"It [the Bill] does not capture everything we would like to see," said Mr Goodall. "In the past, there was a clear recognition of the benefits of increasing our forestry resource [to then provide a strategic timber supply]. In the 21st century, the challenges are different, but forestry can still provide a solution - for example to deliver Scotland's ambitious climate change targets and tackle a future shortfall in the supply of timber." 

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government said it planned to increase new planting targets from the current 10,000 hectares per year to 15,000 hectares per year by 2024-25. 

Mr Goodall said it was also important to put the ambition into legislation to protect the rural jobs, growth and investment provided by an industry employing more than 25,000 people in Scotland and contributing £1 billion annually to its economy. 

"This ambition is missing from the Bill - and it is a significant missing element," he said. Later, Mr Goodall stressed that the Bill also failed to "recognise and seek to protect the status of productive woodland on the national forest estate" - which was crucial in delivering future timber to the market place, thus breeding confidence and encouraging further investment. 

Mr Goodall also said that the new structures proposed by the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill should include a Chief Forester for Scotland - someone with forestry experience who would have the respect of the industry.

Mr Goodall was also concerned about some grey areas between ‘sustainable forest management’ - which he said involved managing forestry to deliver a combination of economic, environmental and social benefit - with managing forestry land for ‘sustainable development’. He was concerned that this might not include forestry activities at all.

"We have been doing sustainable forest management for 30 years but the lack of a definition is a missed opportunity," Mr Goodall told the committee. "We should enshrine it [in the Bill] and provide clarity."

Confor submitted evidence to the REC committee in advance, welcoming the fact that the Bill "enshrines in legislation duties on Scottish Ministers to promote sustainable forest management and to maintain an updated forestry strategy".

It also questioned the relevance of the sections on ministers' powers to exercise compulsory purchase - and said any arrangements should "require demonstration of the need for these powers as well as clearer indications as to their limits, and under what circumstances they may be exercised".

Confor's evidence to the committee can be read here.