Confor praise for Fergus Ewing's 'powerful legacy'

19 May 2021

Confor has praised Fergus Ewing MSP for his deep understanding of the value of forestry and wood to Scotland's economy and environment - as he leaves Ministerial office after 14 years.

As Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (later Rural Economy and Tourism), Fergus Ewing set up the Mackinnon Review in 2016, to look at the barriers to creating new woodland in Scotland - and led on the full devolution of forestry policy to Scotland.

He also delivered the Scottish Forestry Strategy in 2019, a blueprint through to 2029 which has all-party support - which was reinforced by all the main parties at a pre-election hustings organised by Confor in March.

Only 4,500 hectares of new woodland was being created annually when Mr Ewing took office, but this rose to 11,000 hectares in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. It is expected the 12,000-hectare target could be hit for 2020-21 when new figures are published in June - and the 15,000-hectare annual planting target by 2024-25 was last year increased to 18,000 hectares on the back of Scotland’s success.

"Fergus Ewing leaves a powerful legacy - a new generation of modern, mixed-species and multi-purpose forests across Scotland and new-found confidence in the sector that government ambition can be turned into trees and jobs on the ground," said Mr Goodall. 

"He recognised new planting would deliver long-term economic and environmental benefits and linked up rural economy and climate change policy very effectively. He also worked closely with our industry, to better understand those businesses helping to provide more than 25,000 jobs across Scotland.

"Increased planting has given confidence to Scotland's wood processing industry to invest many tens of millions of pounds in their sites - because they can see a long-term timber supply, and this will in turn create many more jobs in the wider sector."

Mr Goodall said Mr Ewing had also understood farming and forestry were complementary and needed to work together effectively for the good of the wider rural economy.

He concluded: "He leaves behind an industry with real momentum - and cross-party support . Confor looks forward to working with the new ministerial team to ensure that the momentum continues, so Scotland can continue to reap the environmental and economic benefits of mixed, modern forests and increasing use of Scottish wood." 

Confor is seeking full details of who will have responsibility for forestry in the new Scottish Government, after portfolios were re-drawn, with Fergus Ewing's Rural Economy and Tourism portfolio disappearing and new roles created covering Net Zero, Energy and Transport, as well as Rural Affairs and Islands.