As part of the new fully devolved arrangements for forestry in Scotland, the Scottish government launched an optimistic long term draft strategy for the sustainable management of Scotland’s forest estate. As outlined in our previous blog, the strategy presents a 50 year vision for Scotland’s woodlands and sets out a 10 year framework for action. The vision is to protect and grow Scotland’s forests in order to provide greater economic, social and environmental benefits.

Following a two month public consultation gathering responses from a range of stakeholders, and with a generally positive reception to the vision and objectives of the strategy, the Scottish Government has now published a finalised version, which can be viewed here.

The strategy has been confined to six priority areas:

  • Ensuring forests and woodlands are sustainably managed
  • Expanding the area of forests and woodlands, recognising wider land-use objectives
  • Improving efficiency and productivity, and developing markets
  • Increasing the adaptability and resilience of forests and woodlands
  • Enhancing the environmental benefits provided by forests and woodlands
  • Engaging more people, communities and businesses in the creation, management and use of forests and woodlands

More detail on how these will be implemented and delivered has also been provided. In particular, there is greater clarity on the delivery, monitoring and reporting process and the role government and stakeholders will play in measuring progress. This will include establishing a national stakeholder group to advise on, and support the implementation of, the strategy.

A common theme raised in the consultation responses was the need for improvements to rural infrastructure to support the sustainable transportation of timber. As such, the strategy now gives greater prominence to the need to improve infrastructure and to mitigate the risk of possible negative impacts from forestry. Indeed, since the launch of the strategy, the Scottish Government has already increased investment for timber transport projects across Scotland and has pledged to build over 200km of forest roads to improve access to timber.

There is greater focus on the need to protect the biodiversity of Scotland’s forests. For example, the strategy now seeks to safeguard priority habitats and species, and to mitigate the risks posed by invasive and non-native species, deer and other herbivores.

Concerns that there was a lack of consideration of small-scale forestry have also been addressed. The priorities for action now provide a commitment to support forests, woodlands and businesses of different scales and figures.

Within 12 months of the strategy being presented to the Scottish Parliament on 5 February 2019, the Scottish Government is to publish a more detailed implementation, monitoring and reporting framework, and we will update you on that once available.