Confor welcomes Fergus Ewing's rural economy brief

CONFOR has welcomed the nomination of Fergus Ewing MSP as the new Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity in The Scottish Government - and pledged to work with him to deliver the SNP's manifesto commitments on tree planting.

Mr Ewing was nominated for the post by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today, with the appointment subject to confirmation by the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, which represents almost 2000 forestry and wood-using businesses, said: "Fergus Ewing has shown that he is knowledgeable and supportive of forestry and wood processing, and he has significant forestry and timber businesses in his Inverness & Nairn constituency.

“We are pleased that forestry is included in the newly-named Rural Economy and Connectivity brief, which reflects its significance as a £1 billion industry employing more than 25,000 people.

“We were delighted to see the commitments to significant new tree planting and reducing bureaucracy around woodland applications in the SNP's manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections.

“We now look forward to working with Fergus Ewing to deliver on the commitments to plant 10,000 hectares of new woodland every year to 2022 [around 22 million trees annually] and to speed up the pace of application and approval of planting.”

The SNP manifesto also highlighted the role that forestry can play in reducing future flood risks, an area covered by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform brief. Mr Goodall welcomed the appointment of Roseanna Cunningham to the post, which now has a seat at the Cabinet table.

“Forestry has a key role to play in both economic and environmental policy,” he said. “Tree planting can make a significant contribution to moving Scotland towards its climate change targets, reduce future flood risks and encourage greater biodiversity.”

Mr Goodall said Confor would work constructively with the new ministerial team in all these areas, as well as campaigning for continued support for the Strategic Timber Transport Fund and for the enhanced role of wood in house building.

In a recent article, Mr Goodall highlighted the role that wood - or Green Gold, as one expert has described it - could play in delivering the 20,000 new homes that Scotland needs to build every year to address the housing shortage.

“If we can work with the Scottish Government to meet the manifesto commitment and plant those trees, Scotland can make progress towards its climate change targets, tackle fuel poverty, and provide the wood for those homes we need so desperately – now and in the future. In addition, we can secure those 25,000-plus jobs in our rural communities for future generations.”

Mr Goodall paid tribute to the previous ministerial team, saying: “Richard Lochhead worked tirelessly for rural communities and interests across Scotland and Aileen McLeod was always a listening voice and supportive forestry minister.”