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Forestry Commission Expertise Should Not Be Lost Under New Goverance Structures

The recognised expertise of Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) must not be lost under new forestry governance structures, Scottish Land & Estates has said today.
 
Appearing at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Senior Policy Officer (Land Use & Environment) Anne Gray provided evidence on the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill.
 
Ms Gray said it was vital that the long-term nature of forestry is recognised and that knowledge is not diluted by the functions of FCS moving into a division of the civil service.
Anne Gray said: “Forestry Commission Scotland is a recognised and well-regarded agency that provides expertise in a sector that takes a very long-term approach to development and investment. We would not want to see this knowledge diluted.
 
“The current proposal to split FCS’s functions into a division of government and an executive agency brings the risk that as part of the wider civil service, a generalist approach is taken with employees more likely to move from department to department. This would be a huge loss to the sector.
 
“We recognise that Forestry Commission structures should be fully controlled in Scotland but the proposal as set out seems unnecessary to us.  We suggest it would be more prudent to keep Forestry Commission Scotland and avoid the costs associated with its closure, including the loss of a brand that is known by both the sector and the public.”
 
Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone added that rolling over a compulsory purchase mechanism for Scottish Ministers regarding forestry – an existing function that has not been used in half a century -  was unnecessary and was also concerning given the lack of definition about how it would be used.
 
David Johnstone said: “A compulsory purchase mechanism for forestry purposes has existed under current government structures for more than 50 years and has never been used. It therefore seems completely unnecessary to roll this over, and extend it to include land for sustainable development purposes, when cooperation rather than legal conflict should be the route to achieving the best future for forestry and the management of other public land in Scotland.
 
“We have asked for examples on how Ministers would want to use the compulsory purchase mechanism but thus far there has been scant detail provided.
 
“We are concerned that the Bill is very light on definition and the real detail will come later in secondary legislation without proper parliamentary oversight. For example, we want to see a definition of sustainable forest management provided on the face of the Bill, not left to accompanying guidance. This Bill should not just provide a framework for forestry and public land management but proper detail on how governance will function over the next decade and beyond.”
 

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