CONFOR has welcomed the “pragmatic and positive” approach by politicians to the new Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill after the latest version was published.
Chief Executive of Confor, Stuart Goodall, said better legislation had emerged as a result of careful consideration of more than 130 amendments put forward to the draft Bill – the first new forestry legislation in 50 years, which completes the full devolution of forestry to Scotland.
Confor worked closely with MSPs on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee to press for what it saw as crucial changes to the original draft. This led to a commitment to guarantee future timber supply and a recognition of the need for forestry expertise at the heart of government – with a commitment to appoint a Chief Forester or similar new role to ensure this happens.
Confor is also hopeful that a call to guarantee new woodland creation in the Bill will be proposed before the Bill proceeds to Stage 3. There will be a debate on Stage 3 of the Bill in the New Year, with legislation expected to be on the statute books before the summer.
Stuart Goodall praised the work of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which is responsible for the passage of the bill through the Scottish Parliament.
He said: “There has been real consensus on the broad principles of the Bill and the need to support Scotland’s £1 billion forestry and wood-processing industry and secure the 25,000-plus jobs it supports.
“We have seen a very pragmatic and positive approach from MSPs of all parties and from Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing. They have listened to the views of experts and we have better legislation in prospect as a result.”
Mr Goodall said Confor would continue to engage constructively with all parties in 2018 to ensure the Bill fulfilled its fundamental purpose – to serve the best interests of Scotland’s rural economy, environment and communities.
“The current Scottish Government is committed to planting more trees and increasing woodland cover – but we need this commitment to be in the Bill to ensure future governments are similarly committed,” he explained. “Confor was delighted that an amendment on future timber supply was approved, as that future supply is crucial to build confidence in the industry, which has led to well in excess of £50 million per year being invested in Scottish forestry over the last decade.”
This investment included £95 million by panel board maker Norbord, in its factory at Dalcross, near Inverness, announced in 2016.