ConFor offers new Scottish minister way forward on forest expansion
ConFor has presented the new Scottish environment minister, Roseanna Cunningham, with a potential alternative mechanism for raising money to support increased new planting in Scotland. The move follows feedback from opposition parties at Holyrood that they are opposed to the proposal put forward by the minister’s predecessor, Michael Russell, to lease one quarter of the Scottish public forest estate.
“ConFor has liaised closely with the minister and opposition parties to ensure they are aware of the business sector’s perspective on the leasing proposal, and to be able to respond quickly to any developments”, said Stuart Goodall, chief executive of ConFor. “As it became clear that leasing was unlikely to survive, we stepped in and used our political contacts, and an appearance in front of the parliament’s scrutiny committee, to outline a potential alternative. We have now urged the new minister to work with us to take it forward”.
ConFor’s proposal involves hypothecating income from joint ventures that the Forestry Commission in Scotland enters into. This new money could help deliver as much as 15,000 hectares of new planting. Soon after the SNP’s success at the last Scottish election, ConFor met with Michael Russell to persuade him of the benefits of such a programme, noting that it would help tackle a predicted future dip in timber supply, and could deliver nearly a million tonnes of additional wood to market.
ConFor’s proposal also relies on the new minister maintaining the momentum created by her predecessor to improve the functioning of the Scottish Rural Development Programme, which is vital to channel funds for new planting. The proposal additionally considers how the private sector can help deliver efficiencies in Forestry Commission activity.
“The Scottish Government recognises the benefits of planting more productive forests, not just for the future growth of the forestry and wood-processing sector, but also to make a significant contribution to reducing carbon in the atmosphere”, added Stuart. “Unfortunately, this planting is not yet taking place. The actions we put forward would make a material difference to supporting the growth of this important sector”.