New Forestry Bill "Must do more to protect 25,000 jobs"
6 October 2017
Scotland's new forestry bill must do more to secure the future of a £1 billion industry and 25,000 jobs by committing to planting new trees, a leading industry figure has warned.
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, was speaking after the publication of the Stage 1 report on the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill by Holyrood's Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee.
"This report is a good start but more needs to be done to ensure the new legislation secures the future of the forestry and timber sector, which is worth £1 billion to Scotland's economy and employs more than 25,000 people," said Mr Goodall.
"I welcome the report's recognition of the importance of securing future wood production - but I am disappointed that this vital issue is to be left for consideration by future forestry strategies without any recognition of its importance in the Bill."
Mr Goodall said Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing and the REC committee recognise the vital importance of wood supply, but there were no guarantees that future strategies, or politicians, would do so.
"Wood supply underpins jobs and investment in our rural areas, and confidence in future supply is crucial to maintain jobs and investment and to deliver broader benefits for our health and environment.
"The Bill should say that all future strategies should formally assess future wood supply and how that can be secured."
Mr Goodall added: "I'm pleased that the committee has responded to our concerns about maintaining forestry expertise in any new structure, and suggested a Chief Forester to reinforce this. It is also important that the Scottish Government commits to protecting forestry expertise at the local level.
"I also welcome recognition that funds from forest land sales by national agency Forest Enterprise should be reinvested back into forestry, but again, I am disappointed that there is no explicit recognition of the need to protect the large wood resource currently in the stewardship of Scottish Ministers."
There will be a parliamentary debate on the Stage 1 report (link here) by 10th November and if approved, the Bill will move onto Stage 2, with final legislation expected in spring 2018.
* Confor: promoting forestry and wood, represents more than 600 forestry and wood-using businesses in Scotland: www.confor.org.uk