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RACCE Committee Concerns Over Forestry

This week saw the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee publish its report on the Draft Budget for 2015-16. Its report included criticism about the ongoing tensions between forestry and farming, the cut in the Forestry Commission budget, the fact that planting targets are being missed and the size of the tree health budget.
Extracts from the report include:
“The tension between farming and forestry has been a frustratingly recurring theme in the Committee’s work this session. The Committee has seen the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group, and countless seemingly encouraging words from groups and individuals on both sides, come and go and yet there seems to be little positive evidence that farming and forestry interests are truly integrating and working together on the scale required to deliver the multiple benefits that should result from responsible land use”.  
“The Committee expressed concerns in its budget report last year about whether the budget for tree planting was sufficient to meet the targets set out by the Scottish Government and the subsequent associated emission reduction targets set out in the RPP2. This remains a concern and the Committee comments on this further below. The Committee notes the real terms cut to the Forestry Commission Scotland budget and, as it has noted elsewhere in this report, recommends that the Scottish Government carefully assess the distribution of funds across the RAE portfolio in future years to ensure that specific areas, such as forestry, do not experience a trend of declining budgets which may threaten progress”.
“The Committee expressed concerns in its budget report last year regarding the failure to meet the tree planting targets set out by the Scottish Government and is disappointed to see that planting rates have fallen even further in the last year. The Committee requests an explanation from the Scottish Government as to why the planting targets are not being met and what steps it is taking to address the situation. 
The Committee was pleased to hear the former Minister’s acknowledgement of some of the problems in this budget, and his commitment to review forestry expenditure in the next spending review period. The Committee urges the recently appointed Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform to push as hard as possible to ensure that the forestry budget is increased to a level appropriate to increase planting levels and ensure that the target of planting 100,000 hectares of trees by 2022 is achieved”.
“The Committee believes, again from both a prioritisation and value for money perspective, that there are justified doubts regarding the sufficiency of the tree health budget. There are well publicised and serious concerns in Scotland at the current time regarding a number of tree and plant diseases and it is therefore important that appropriate funds are dedicated to this issue, particularly in the field of research”.

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