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All 24 recommendations of the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group’s report into future tree planting in Scotland have been accepted by Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead.
Mr Lochhead said the report was “practical and realistic” and was based on a solid foundation of evidence from an experienced cross section of land based experts.
The report, carried out by a 19 strong group of farmers, foresters, conservation, community and environmental representatives, aims to give a new direction to future woodland creation.
The report emphasised a more integrated approach to tree planting and one that brings farming and forestry interests closer together.
Mr Lochhead said:
“The Scottish Government is committed to achieving a balance between achieving our woodland creation targets and the needs of agriculture.
“I believe this report signals a promising future for woodland creation on which thousands of jobs and our climate change targets depend. It is represents a more positive way forward and fits very well with our Land Use Strategy principles of making the best use of all our land.
“I’d like to thank the Group for its work and all those who took part in the consultation process – everyone has pulled together in the best interests of safeguarding all the land based sectors.
“Implementing the WEAG recommendations will take time but in my response I have clearly outlined a number of actions which will be taken forward in the coming year and beyond.
“Additionally, I have asked that Forestry Commission Scotland develop best practice guidance on the purchase of farm land for woodland creation as soon as possible and I am confident that this additional measure will not impact upon our ambition to see optimal land use in Scotland.”
In purchasing farmland for woodland creation, Forestry Commission Scotland aims to create exemplar sites that will demonstrate good practice in land use integration. A comprehensive consultation process (statutory consultees, the local community, other land users and stakeholders) is carried out before any site is planted and until planting takes place, land is let for farming to ensure that best use is made of the resource.
The Commission also carefully looks at the possibility of creating a starter farm on any purchased site or, where there are gaps on a site, letting the land out for agricultural use.
Since 2006, the Commission has purchased 44 of Scotland’s over 25,000 farms and of these only 13 have been planted to date.
Mr Lochhead added:
“I have asked that those farms not planted so far, including the recently purchased farm in Aberdeenshire, be managed in accordance with the recommendations in the WEAG report.
“I recognise the farming sector’s desire to protect land for food production and we remain fully supportive of the needs of the farming sector and other land uses. To underline this, the Commission will not bid for any more farms until the guidance is completed.”
Some key actions include:
- Putting in place practical and objective guidance on judging which types of land are suitable for tree planting. This guidance will help Forestry Commission Scotland make sound decisions when awarding grants for tree planting and creating woodland on the national forest estate;
- Action from the working groups currently developing the next SRDP to explore how to implement the various recommendations on improving the grants system;
- The development of an “Applicants Charter” to help give applicants more certainty about the grants process; and
- An agreement to review, in the next few years, the current woodland creation target of 10,000 ha per year.
The full response to the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group’s report can be viewed online at www.forestry.gov.uk/weag
Notes to news editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
2. The Woodland Expansion Advisory Group was set up back in August 2011 and signalled the first step in the delivery of the Scottish Government's Land Use Strategy. The formation of the Group had its roots in the failure in recent years to meet the planting targets that Government had set, coupled to rising concerns from the farming community in particular about the potential impact of woodland expansion on agriculture.
3. For news, events and recreation information log on to www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests. For Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcscotland
4. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
5. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.