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A new advisory group is being set up to help identify which types of land are best suited for tree planting in Scotland.
The move aims to bring together forestry and farming interests so that the benefits of tree planting are realised, whilst food production is safeguarded.
The new group will include members from the farming and forestry sectors, as well as Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Government Rural & Environment Directorate and Scottish Natural Heritage.
The announcement signals the first step in the delivery of the Scottish Government’s Land Use Strategy and was made by Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, at the Royal Highland Show today.
“The Scottish Government is committed to promoting a stronger integration between the forestry and farming sectors.
“Already there has been a lot of good work undertaken by the industries to achieve this. However, we still need to tackle the difficult balancing act of allowing woodland cover to increase but also ensuring food production is a key priority. In achieving this, we need appropriate checks and balances along the way and the advisory group’s work should help inform future directions on planting and land use.
“We remain committed to planting to 10,000 hectares a year over the coming years, but will be looking to this group to provide advice on how we get the right trees in the right place and on what land is potentially available for planting. The decisions we take now can have longer-term implications so we need to get the balance right. ”
The advisory group’s task will be to “identify more closely which types of land are best for tree planting in the context of other land-based objectives, and promote good practice and local processes in relation to tree planting so as to secure multiple benefits”. The group will first meet in August and is expected to report its findings in March 2012.
NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller said:
"The approach being taken by the Scottish Government in establishing this advisory group recognises a future where forestry and farming are working together rather than in conflict, and that is the right way forward.
"There is no doubt that contentious farming or forestry issues have arisen in relation to land that is attractive both for productive woodland creation and for livestock production. In general, NFUS supports the creation of farm woodlands that integrate with continuing farm enterprises, and offer additional benefits, without compromising farm business viability."
To further stimulate closer working ties between foresters and farmers, Mr Lochhead also announced the expansion of the farm leasing programme. Under this initiative, land owned by farmers will be leased to Forestry Commission Scotland for a ten year period so that new productive woodlands can be created.
This farm leasing programme was successfully trialled over the winter months and the Commission is in the final stages of leasing nine areas of farmland across the country. Looking ahead, the programme will also seek to encourage collaborative applications from neighbouring farmers.
Farmers taking part in the scheme will benefit from a productive woodland established on their land after the 10 year period. The woodland can act as a shade or shelter for livestock or crops and create a local source of woodfuel and timber for use on the farm or for sale.
Nigel Miller commented further:
“For those farmers considering woodland creation, this is a scheme that could take away much of the risk associated with planting trees and leave them, after ten years, with an established woodland. This could help farmers get over their concerns about planting trees on land that has traditionally been use for livestock and generate an income stream that may well exceed that which could be gained from farming the land as before."
Notes to news editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland works as the Scottish Government’s forestry directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland.
2. The remit of this group takes forward Proposal 7 in the Scottish Government’s Land Use Strategy, addressing specific issues and concerns relating to forestry. There will be an opportunity for wider stakeholder involvement in the processes for developing and implementing the full range of issues covered by the Land Use Strategy and the Scottish Government will announce its proposals for taking forward the Strategy as a whole in due course.
3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.