The Scottish government has launched a consultation seeking views on the devolution of forestry (making management of forestry directly accountable to Scottish Ministers). There are proposed new arrangements for the governance, development, support and regulation of forestry in Scotland which are very different from the pre-devolution Forestry Commission we had in the past. The consultation document is here.
Currently, forestry is broadly devolved and policy is set by the Scottish Ministers but management of forestry in Scotland has remained with the “Forestry Commissioners” – a UK Non-Ministerial Department with a statutory Board of Commissioners and, since devolution, a cross-border public authority.
There have been different priorities set for forestry in Scotland, England and Wales, and the management of the forest estates is becoming increasingly more separate. The responsibilities undertaken by Forestry Commission Wales were transferred to a new public body (Natural Resources Wales) in 2013 and, in Scotland, the Scottish National Party made a commitment to take on full responsibility for all forestry issues in its 2011 manifesto and reiterated this in the 2016 manifesto.
The two main parts of the Forestry Commission in Scotland are Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES).
FCS promotes forestry, advises on and implements forestry policy, administers grants and regulates the forestry sector. FES is a land management body with responsibility for managing the Scottish Ministers’ National Forest Estate (NFE). The aims and objectives of both FCS and FES flow from the Scottish Forestry Strategy, and Scotland’s Land Use Strategy and both are funded by the Scottish Government, but they are not Scottish public bodies and thus are not currently subject to Scottish Government policies and practices.
In this consultation, the Scottish Government is proposing that the functions currently performed by FCS come into the Scottish Government as a dedicated Forestry Division within the Environment & Forestry Directorate. The also propose the establishment of a new forestry and land management Executive Agency of the Scottish Government, formed from the existing FES and called “Forestry and Land Scotland”.
Forestry policy affects many things including biodiversity, access, land use, wildlife, timber supply, climate change, healthy living, tourism and education.
There are also issues that operate at the UK scale that need consideration – such as tree health (pests, diseases, climate change), research, UK-wide standards and international policy.
You can respond online here, but you need to do it before 9th November.
You can also attend “The Future of Forestry” conference, on 3rd November (Edinburgh).