Confor has welcomed reassurance that forestry professionalism will be protected and promoted in new administrative arrangements in Scotland – and that the Scottish Government’s plan to keep Scotland’s two new forestry bodies separate will prevent the industry facing a £30 million black hole.
Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, outlined proposals earlier this week to manage and administer the sector when the devolution of forestry in Scotland is completed.
The plans are part of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill, which is due to be debated again on March 1st in the Scottish Parliament and is likely to be passed before the summer.
The Scottish Government has proposed that the roles currently fulfilled by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Forestry Enterprise Scotland (FES) reflect the devolution of forestry by taking on new titles. They would be Scottish Forestry, a new dedicated division within the Scottish Government, and a new agency of the Scottish Government called Forestry and Land Scotland.
Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said: “A lot of thought has gone into these new structures and Confor is happy to support them. It is also important that Forestry and Land Scotland has the same status as FES has had previously – that of a public corporation.”
In the letter to Mr Ewing, Mr Goodall said: “[This status] is vital as the organisation is expected to rely heavily on trading timber for its income and needs to be able to build reserves and have flexibility across financial years. The information provided in your statement shows this carry-over was more than £30 million in the last financial year. It is clear this public corporation status is key to the future success of the FES and Confor hopes Forestry and Land Scotland continues to have the same flexibility.”
Mr Goodall also welcomed confirmation that the post of Chief Forester – a proposal Confor put forward – will be established with a key role to protect and promote professionalism in the new division.
He said: “While it is important that forestry is at the heart of government policy-making and not the periphery, it is also important that regulation of forestry is undertaken by professionals, and that they have the opportunity to gain experience in the private sector and in Forestry and Land Scotland. This is confirmed in the statement.”
The letter was copied to the Conveners of both the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR) and Rural Affairs and Connectivity Committee (REC) and MSPs on the two committees.
Mr Goodall said: “Confor has contributed written and oral evidence at all stages of this process and will continue to engage positively with all parties to ensure a positive future for Scotland’s £1 billion forestry industry and the 25,000-plus jobs it supports.”