As previously reported, the Scottish Government consulted on its plans to complete the devolution of Forestry administration and regulation in Scotland in the Autumn of last year. This week the issue was debated in Parliament.
The Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing MSP, spoke to a Scottish Chamber debate on the topic on 24 January 2017. The motion was “That the Parliament acknowledges the contribution that woods and forests make to Scotland’s people, communities, economy and environment; notes ministers’ intention to complete the devolution of forestry so that its management in Scotland is fully accountable to ministers and to the Parliament; welcomes the future increase in the Scottish Government’s annual target to create 15,000 hectares of woodland per year; recognises that forestry has an important role to play in achieving Scotland’s climate targets, and calls on the Scottish Government to take effective action in order to deliver the target and maintain the National Forest Estate as an asset for the nation.”
The proposed increase in planting targets, which is reflected in the recently released draft Climate Change Plan, was debated and there were calls for recognition that while this was potentially to be welcomed it could not be ignored that existing lower planting targets had not been met. The MacKinnon recommendations on woodland expansion – published in the Autumn – would be important to any successful delivery. The importance of continued cross-border working on plant health issues and the need to retain forestry expertise at a local level in Scotland were also highlighted in the debate. Amendments to the motion which reflected these points were made by Peter Chapman MSP and Rhoda Grant MSP and, subsequent to the debate, these amendments were approved. An amendment put forward by Andy Wightman MSP to link the future of forestry to the land reform agenda was rejected.
The official minute is available here...