After months of lobbying by ConFor, the industry has welcomed some progress with the announcement by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, that Scottish Government will:
• Introduce an ongoing approval process for forestry applications that delegates authority to Forestry Commission Scotland, and
• Introduce an option to bypass the unnecessary statement of intent, so as to fast-track forestry grants.
It is vital that there is a healthy grant scheme for the sector to deliver new planting; this has not been the case since the Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme was closed and the grants were incorporated into the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP).
Planting of new woodland fell to just 2,546 hectares over the last year, a far cry from the 10,000 hectares committed by the Scottish Government with cross-party support. The reasons for this were the fundamental failure of the SRDP to address forestry specific issues and these can now be tackled with these announcements. The Cabinet Secretary was speaking on the publication of the review of the Scotland Rural Development Programme by Peter Cook. This was undertaken to answer the wider rural industry’s problems with the SRDP and incorporated the ConFor McRobbie report for the previous Minister for the Environment published in December 2008. The Cook report has endorsed the key recommendations in the ConFor McRobbie report and urged Scottish Government to act on them. Peter Cook used examples from the ConFor McRobbie report as the forestry sector leading on SRDP reform.
The report also highlighted the doubling of the timescale that it took from first contact to starting work. Jamie Farquhar, ConFor’s National Manager for Scotland said, “These announcements together with progress on the introduction of flexibility to the rate of grant which can be paid at the time of claim will go some way to improving the industry’s ability to get on with the new planting so desperately required. We are pleased that at last Scottish Government is demonstrating a willingness to listen to our sector, and the next step is to implement urgently the recommendations from the ConFor report.”
ConFor is meeting with Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Minister for the Environment, at her request to give the industry’s initial reaction to the publication of the Cook Report, on 16th June and will be following up these issues.
• ConFor (Confederation of Forest industries) represents forestry and wood-using businesses from nurseries and growers to wood-processing end-users.