News from Scotland: Save Our Forests

We have recently launched a major campaign in Scotland to “Save Our Forests” led by Jim Hume MSP, who served recently as a member of the Forestry Commission’s South of Scotland Regional Forestry Forum and for six years  a Trustee of the Borders Forest Trust.

The SNP are proposing to lease out 25% of the Forest Estate, but it is the most productive part – so according to the Forestry Union this would equate to 40% of the £41.4million income the Forestry Commission receives from timber sales. It would leave behind a very weak Forestry Commission (FC).

The FC was set up in 1919 to address timber shortages. Since then many timber companies have set themselves up in areas as they were guaranteed supply of timber – that will be at risk if the forest is privatised. When timber prices go low for example, private companies simply stop cutting, where the FC would continue to cut to keep businesses going.

The access issue is not as simple as just access. Yes, in Scotland we have right of access to land, but the FC have been proactive in encouraging access, funding projects like mountain biking and encouraging car rallies, orienteering etc. There is little reason why private companies would do that.

The SNP have said the £200m estimate for the 75 year lease COULD be used for forestry and climate change – there is no guarantee that it would be though.

If that was guaranteed then the SNP would have written – WILL be used when this proposal was slotted into the Climate Change Bill.

The monies we fear, will be used to fill holes in the SNP Government’s budget and neglect forestry and the many issues there are there.

Once the Forests are “privatised”, it looks like they would be given access to Rural Development Funds, which they don’t have access to at the moment. The Rural Development Funds are very low and this would add pressure to these limited funds. This proposal in effect would lease out, for 75 years, 120,000 hectares (around 300,000 acres) in Scotland, not just a few thousand acres, leaving a weak FC and in our view a threat to timber supply.

We have called for an early meeting with the Minister of the Environment with delegates from tourism, FC unions, timber users, wood panel industry, Community councils, Borders Forest Trust regarding the community aspect. This proposal has been warmly welcomed by industry users and stake holders.

The SNP Government has been coy about advertising this consultation which closes on January 27th 2009 which is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats are highlighting this proposal.

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This entry was posted in Scotland.


  • Eddie Bosticco 15th Nov '10 - 7:34pm

    Good Evening.

    Are you the same LIBDEMs who are supporting the Tory sell off of the Forests down south?

  • Richard Underhill 8th Jan '18 - 11:43am

    Theresa May’s government has announced funding of £5.7 million for a forest from Liverpool to Hull which will cost £500 million. Is this one of Michael Gove’s ideas? Trees need maintenance, if neglected they die. This project is bigger than any one devolved regional mayor and needs to last longer than any one political electoral cycle.
    So, are they buying land? If so they devalue agricultural land by 80%.
    Do they intend to harvest the trees at some stage? If so the fastest growth is obtained in South Wales or Devon. 30 years in the south of England compared with 100 years in the north of Scotland. There is an advantage in growing trees slowly if the timber is wanted for structural purposes, which is why the UK imports so much timber from Finland (an EU member) and Russia. Some types of timber can be used for cladding, decorative and insulating, although if it contains a lot of silica it can damage saws.
    Historically most timber was planted to replace trees used as pit props in WW1 looking forward to WW2, but did not have enough time to grow. Military tactics were different (blitzkrieg).
    Would there be a preference for so-called ‘native’ trees? They are more vulnerable to native pests and diseases.
    Perhaps the government could appoint a tree lover? They would obviously prefer a Conservative, so how about Michael Heseltine? (Born: 21 Mar 1933 (age 84) · Swansea).

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