As forestry stakeholders meet Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, today to discuss the Future of Forestry, the Forest Policy Group is highlighting 5 key themes which we believe must be central to future forestry development in Scotland
Five suggestions to deliver better outcomes for Scotland, taking opportunities that come with change. A more diverse forestry can contribute to both the national economy, and the rural economy.
1. Develop small scale and local enterprises
Large scale enterprises are an important component in Scotland’s forest economy, and get the support and recognition that they require. However forestry would be strengthened by the additional development of more woodland-related businesses at small and local scale:
- Stimulate small scale and local enterprises such as the 30 members of the Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers (ASHS). These businesses provide a broad range of benefits, creating jobs across Scotland, by using a resource regarded as non-viable by most of the conventional forestry sector. Other business sectors in Scotland carefully foster both large and small enterprises, and this should be the case in forestry too.
- Build on existing work with the agricultural sector, so that more of the woodland creation target is met by active farmers. This will help to make the rural sector more resilient.
- Increase the number of forest holdings in Scotland, thus offering entry for more people into forestry. This could be achieved by, for example, more creative lotting disposals from the National Forest Estate and the private sector. Also, forest croft tenancies could be more widely encouraged, for example in southern Scotland.
2. Focus on the impact of deer
Deer have a major impact on the potential for more relevant, diverse and resilient forestry, in both uplands and lowlands. The economics of forestry would be transformed if deer were better controlled.
- In the uplands, good forestry can deliver a far greater level and range of public benefits for Scotland, offering job diversity in addition to deer stalking.
- Better deer control in lowland areas would create more job opportunities – another win-win.
3. Land Management for Climate Change
The increasing need to address climate change requires a re-assessment of the impact of various land uses, and this should result in an enhanced weighting in favour of forestry. More natural regeneration on some of our upland habitats would meet many policy objectives.
4. Allow communities to have a greater stake in woodland creation
Local communities should be supported to become more involved in delivering a portion of the Scottish Government target of 15,000ha pa, thus also contributing to another SG target – 1m acres in community ownership.
- Capacity building and cash flow support is required to encourage communities to take on new planting schemes. Many communities have successfully shown that they can manage a range of existing woodlands with both production and conservation objectives. However the community benefits of developing new planting proposals are less widely acknowledged.
- Large, investment led, woodland creation projects could be required to develop two part “community bonds”, committing 5% of the area to community ownership, and an increase in the level of community control in the management of the woodland.
5. Maintain FCS culture in any new structure
Plans for restructuring the Forestry Commission in Scotland should take full account of the Commission’s success in developing a distinctive culture, identity and relationship with stakeholders which has ensured that the forestry regulator can be responsive and accountable to economic, social and environmental stakeholders. This has been crucial in FCS delivery of a remarkable transformation in the forestry sector in recent decades – progress which it should be encouraged to continue under new structural arrangements aimed at securing improved integration.