Forestry priorities in First Minister Programme for Government
12 September 2023
On 5 September, First Minister Humza Yousaf issued his first Programme for Government (PfG), laying out the Scottish Government’s plan for the coming year under the heading of “Equality, Opportunity, Community: Our Programme for Government”.
The PfG was presented as building upon the First Minister’s policy statement published in April 2023.
Accompanying the PfG, the First Minister also issued a series of policy priority letters to each Cabinet Secretary laying out clear priorities for their respective portfolios. The one addressed to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands contained the following section relevant to forestry:
Take steps to further protect and restore our iconic Atlantic rainforests and ancient Caledonian pinewoods and implement actions to speed up woodland creation in Scotland towards 18,000 hectares per year, sequestering carbon for decades to come, delivering biodiversity gains and ensuring a reliable supply of raw material for the timber processing sector.
- Hold a Scottish forestry summit to agree next steps across all sectors to deliver more woodland creation.
- Implement measures in the delivery action plan to get woodland creation back on track, including investing £1m in skills and development of forestry staff and establishing Glenprosen Estate as an exemplar of woodland creation
- Deliver at least 12,000 hectares of trees planted from approved schemes in 2023/24.
The letter also included an action to “Maximise the power of our land and forests to help tackle climate change, protect nature and provide good green jobs, by delivering up to 110,000 hectares of restored peatland”. The inclusion of the term forests is unclear, but could signal a desire to clear more forests as part of work to restore peatland.
The PfG also contained a commitment to introducing 14 new Bills in the coming Legislative agenda, including Bills on Agriculture and Land Reform which are likely to have relevance for forestry in Scotland.
Combined the PfG and the letters represent a stated agenda for the government over the coming year. On your behalf Confor will engage government on all aspects of the coming program that will impact our membership and the sector.