SCOTTISH Land & Estates described today’s (Friday) announcement by the Forestry Commission on changes to Rural Priorities grant funding as a sensible and balanced way forward. The revisions are set to encourage more planting of productive forests across Scotland.
Douglas McAdam, Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said:
"It is clear that recent tree planting has been heavily driven by policy and payment rates. Today’s move by the Forestry Commission is a sensible one that seeks an appropriate balance. We want to encourage native woodland planting, but we also need to ensure a continuity of supply for our timber industry. This means we have to occasionally alter the support mechanisms so that they deliver the outcomes we want to see.
"Woodland managers who have been receiving support under the native woodland option have simply been doing the economically rational thing. The support rates for native woodland planting were very attractive, and therefore successful, and this planting will hopefully enhance our biodiversity and deliver some timber in future. But when we look at the big picture, it is clear that we need to think about the balance of planting and consequences for the timber industry".
Andrew Midgley, Senior Policy Officer, said:
"This announcement, which will be welcome to many in the industry, will come as something of a shock to those who had been intending to submit native woodland planting proposals and it is unfortunate that the Forestry Commission did not provide a little warning so that those people could plan accordingly. Woodland managers need stability in the rules if they are to plan their management effectively and sudden changes can be unhelpful because they create the impression of moving goal posts. So while this is a welcome move for the timber industry, it is really important that the Forestry Commission engages with woodland managers so that they do not get frustrated with the system.
"It is also important that we do not lose sight of some of the other blockages in the system. Delivering forestry support through the SRDP, which is essentially an agricultural support mechanism, has itself created some of the problems we face today. While it looks like we will be stuck in this regime going forward, we will continue to fight for changes that streamline the system and encourage more planting to meet our national planting targets".