Forestry is important to Scotland. The Scottish forestry sector is a success story and makes a major contribution to our rural economy - a recent report calculated this to be close to £1 billion GVA annually, supporting 25,000 jobs. Forests and woodlands also contribute substantially to a number of social and environmental outcomes, including climate change mitigation, biodiversity, natural flood management, recreation and people's health and wellbeing.
The Scottish Government is strongly committed to enhancing the sector's economic, environmental and social contributions, as we set out in our 2016 manifesto.
This consultation seeks primarily to complete the devolution of forestry. Although the Scottish Ministers determine strategy and policy for forestry in Scotland, the management of forestry - including of the Scottish Ministers' National Forest Estate - has remained with the Forestry Commissioners, which is a UK Non-Ministerial Department and, since devolution, a cross-border public authority.
We announced our intention to complete the devolution of forestry in June 2015, since when joint work has proceeded with the UK Government, and more recently also with the Welsh Government, on the options for future forestry arrangements. This consultation is the next significant step. It will help to inform the preparation of a Bill which we intend bringing forward for consideration by the Scottish Parliament and of secondary legislation that will then be required in both UK and Scottish Parliaments.
Our aims are threefold:
- To introduce new organisational arrangements so that the management of forestry in Scotland is fully accountable to the Scottish Ministers and to the Scottish Parliament.
- To ensure that we have in place effective cross-border arrangements where those suit Scottish needs.
- To replace the Forestry Act 1967 with a modern approach to the development, support and regulation of forestry.
The new organisational arrangements for forestry in Scotland will include establishing a forestry and land management agency called 'Forestry and Land Scotland'. The body will focus initially on the development and management of the Scottish Ministers' National Forest Estate to produce timber and deliver other economic, environmental and social outcomes. We will also explore how best to extend the new agency's remit to maximise the benefits of publicly owned land.
I am grateful to the many stakeholders and Forestry Commission officials who have already contributed to the development of our thinking and I am looking forward to that engagement continuing over the coming months.
As the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for forestry, I am keen for us to maximise the contribution forestry makes to Scotland's rural economy. Completing the devolution of forestry is an important part of this ambition and I would strongly encourage everyone with an interest in our plans and proposals to respond to this consultation. I wish in advance to thank you for taking the time to do so.
FERGUS EWING MSP
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity
Email: Forestry Devolution Team, FutureForestry@gov.scot