RSFS Responds to the draft Scotland's Forestry Strategy
RSFS President James Hepburne Scott summarised the Society's response to the consultation:
“Of course, we agree with the vision. But there is nothing new here. All these components are already in place. The strategy requires a more critical assessment of progress achieved, and not achieved, under the 2006 strategy. Achieving the vision will require commitment to the objectives over the timescale of forestry, a willingness to tackle the barriers to delivery, make decisions which recognise where change is necessary, and reallocate resources.”
Today, strategies proliferate; bio-diversity, water, soil framework, climate change adaptation, river basin management, planning etc. A realistic forestry strategy must sit comfortably alongside these other, often competing, strategies within a functioning Land Use Strategy. Good work has been done in Scottish Borders to develop the LUS to a point where it can be applied to good effect. This work should now be given greater prominence and proceed across all of Scotland.
Delivery of the Strategy will demand collaborative working of a large and growing team of very diverse players. This means sustained political leadership based on ownership of the strategy. This will sometimes mean reconciling competing land use arguments. We recognise and appreciate positive leadership at present, but this Strategy is about long-term delivery and this leadership must not fade or falter.
All those engaged need to be confident that if they are to deliver the increased activity levels this Strategy expects then the Scottish Forestry Agency will have all the resources needed to support them. Without the necessary confidence this vision will never be achieved, certainly not the forest expansion target.
Continued stakeholder engagement will be critical to the success of the Strategy. We believe strongly that Regional Forestry Fora are an excellent channel to represent the interests and concerns of the broad community of woodland owners, managers and users. Their role should be maintained and strengthened by according due importance to the role of the National Forestry Forum. In the absence of the National Committee it is vital that the wide range of issues embraced by the Strategy and experienced on the ground can be discussed and reviewed at policy level.
We believe there should be a commitment to expand and maintain a skilled and professionally qualified forestry work force. This requires a greater degree of confidence than has prevailed in recent years. If the small businesses which predominate in this sector plan for 10,000 hectares of new planting, for example, and only 7,000 are achieved some of those businesses will fail. The nursery sector is particularly vulnerable in this respect. If they plan for 7,000 that is all that will be achieved.
Our response also emphasises the need for further analysis of the forecasts of supply and demand, including scenarios which take account of changes in the growing stock and in the lengths of rotation. Forestry’s contribution to delivering the Scottish Government’s climate change commitments is closely related to this and we would urge further analysis of the assumptions and greater promotion of the tools available such as the Woodland Carbon Code. The capacity for forestry to deliver the strategy ultimately depends on creating a resilient resource with effective responses to the impact to pests and diseases, including wild deer. The work of Forest Research has been of paramount value to UK forestry in recent decades. We would like to see a clear confirmation in this strategy that this vital work will not be diminished or compromised by the new devolution measures.
Finally, we urge that Scotland must not become too parochial and inward-looking in developing and implementing its forestry policy. We must be imaginative and pro-active, focussing on research, training and international exchange.
About the Royal Scottish Forestry Society
The Royal Scottish Forestry Society exists to promote excellence of forestry in Scotland and the wider world for the benefit of the present and future generations. Our members come from across all sections of the forest industry in Scotland ranging from those with an interest in the forests, woods and trees of Scotland to forestry professionals and those with a broader interest in the land and trees.