The Scottish Government is requesting responses to its draft 10-year framework for the future of Scottish Forestry

In line with the provisions of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in March of this year, the Scottish Government now has a duty to prepare a long-term strategy to manage forestry in Scotland. The Strategy must set out a “vision for forestry in Scotland”, setting out the Government’s “objectives, priorities and policies” in achieving “sustainable forest management”.

A draft Forestry Strategy for 2019-2029 has been produced by the Scottish Government to satisfy this new requirement. It is expected that the finalised version of the Strategy, following the consultation period, will be in place by April 2019.

The Strategy is essential reading for anyone who has links with the forestry sector, or an interest in the economic and environmental contribution of forestry in Scotland. Outside of forestry, those with an interest in farming, estate management and Scotland’s rural economy or policy are also recommended to read the Strategy and consider reporting their views to the Scottish Government through the Consultation. The Strategy’s discussion of forestry itself is not overly technical and focusses on the objectives and challenges that concern the future of Scottish forestry from a policy perspective.

What does the Strategy actually set out as the future of Scottish forestry? The title is somewhat misleading – due to the fact that trees take 30 to 60 years to fulfil their productive capacity (prompting the question as to why a 10-year strategy would really be sufficient to plan for forestry), the Strategy is clear in that ‘long-term vision’ for forestry considers a 50-year period, and the 10-year Strategy is aimed at establishing the framework to achieve that long-term vision.

The 50-year vision will be achieved through aims such as, among others, sustained woodland expansion in Scotland, maintaining sustainable management of Scotland’s forests, and promoting multi-purpose forestry. These are underpinned by “the principle of the right tree, in the right place at the right time”. In support of the long-term aims the Strategy sets out the current condition of the Scottish timber market – for example in woodland coverage, Scotland falls behind its European competitors to a significant extent. The long term aims are also supported by the data on demand and supply in the market – global demand for timber is rising and a long-term strategy of woodland expansion will help Scotland’s forests continue to play an important part in satisfying domestic demand and will reduce the UK’s dependence on imported timber, which dependence is expected to rise from 2030 until the new planting strategy produces results in terms of harvested trees. One particular aim of the Strategy is to use the forestry market to help service biomass, and the construction of new houses in Scotland – these are not only growing markets which support the economy, they also benefit Scottish society as a whole and are environmentally friendly.

In turn, how will the Strategy establish a 10-year framework to achieve the 50-year objectives it sets out? Aside from points such as planting targets which will be familiar to those within the forestry sector, some suggested policies are to increase the use of technology through methods developed in Scandinavia, and to invest in educational programmes to ensure the supply of highly trained forest managers are ready to manage a growing market. Biosecurity measures to minimising the effect of timber diseases are also considered.

Overall, while the 2018 Act allows for the creation of new bodies to oversee forestry management in Scotland to take this Strategy forward, the fact that the Forestry Commission has been well established for many years means that there is a sound base of knowledge and experience to help deliver it.

The Strategy is open for consultation until 29 November 2018. You can submit your views here: https://consult.gov.scot/forestry/scotlands-forestry-strategy-2019-29/