Forestry sector welcomes final piece in planting jigsaw

14 December 2016

A report published today is set to provide the final step towards meeting Scotland’s tree planting targets.

Responding to the Mackinnon report on action to increase planting rates, Confor's Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said: "This is a positive, ambitious and above all, practical blueprint for the future of Scotland's £1 billion forestry and timber sector. 

"Along with the 25,000 other people employed by the industry in Scotland, I am heartened to see pragmatic, workable proposals to ensure we finally achieve the tree planting rates necessary to deliver the sector's full potential for our economy, environment and communities. 

"Confor has worked hard in recent years with the Scottish Government and Forestry Commission to make the grant scheme fit for purpose. After his appointment as Cabinet Secretary, we met Fergus Ewing to propose that the experience of the planning sector could provide the final piece in the jigsaw to ensure the grant scheme could deliver the planting of 10,000 hectares of new forestry each year. The Cabinet Secretary’s response was to appoint Jim Mackinnon."

Confor welcomed the appointment of the former Chief Planner, whose report examines the forestry industry and the current barriers to woodland creation in Scotland. Recommendations include:

•   Streamlining the process to approve sustainable planting schemes, for example by appointing accredited, experienced agents to help certify some woodland planting schemes and giving local Forestry Commission offices more responsibility to approve lower value applications

•   Earlier engagement between tree-planting businesses and communities, in a way that is proportionate to the scale and impact of the planting scheme

•   A dedicated national Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) team to deal with complex proposals including all projects where Environmental Impact Assessments are required.

Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland’s forests and woodlands are among our most valuable rural assets and our ambition is for them to expand and flourish. I am determined to reduce the complexity, duration and cost of tree planting applications and that is why we commissioned this detailed analysis. 

“I want to thank Jim Mackinnon for all his hard work on the review. I am determined to improve the pace and scale of new sustainable planting to meet our climate change commitment to plant 10,000 hectares per year and to ensure long-term availability of timber. With that in mind I accept in principle all the recommendations made in the report and look forward to FCS setting out early next year a delivery plan for implementing the recommendations. I am very pleased that Jim has agreed to come back and report on implementation when I next meet with forestry stakeholders in the Spring.”

Jim Mackinnon CBE, who met more than 200 forestry stakeholders during his three-month review said: “The sector has engaged enthusiastically with the review and it is heartening to see there is a strong common desire to see the rate of sustainable woodland creation increased significantly.

“I believe the recommendations form the basis of a significantly better approach to accelerating the rate of new planting but it will require greater empowerment of local FCS offices; greater trust, particularly in the proposed accredited forestry professionals; and a more proportionate approach to requests for information and additional studies.”

Mr Goodall concluded: "It is great to see that there are already plans for Jim Mackinnon to report back on progress in the spring. Fergus Ewing is clearly keen that this is not a report which sits on the shelf, but one which delivers real action.

“2017 will be a huge year for Scottish forestry with the Scottish Government bringing forward the first major Forestry Bill for 50 years.  Confor looks forward to working with the Scottish Government to help deliver the annual target of 10,000 hectares of new planting for the next five years to take the industry to even greater heights.”

* The link to the Mackinnon Report: Analysis of Current Arrangements for the Consideration and Approval of Forestry Planting Proposals, can be found here.