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Long-term loss of forestry knowledge remains concern of rural businesses

Land managers remain worried about a future loss of forestry expertise despite government assurances to the contrary, Scottish Land & Estates has said.

The organisation, which represents land-based businesses across Scotland, responded to today’s parliamentary evidence on the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill from Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity. The Bill proposes that Forestry Commission Scotland should be split into a division of government and an executive agency, a move which has concerned businesses within the sector.

Anne Gray, Senior Policy Officer (Land Use & Environment) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Whilst we have listened to the Scottish Government’s reassurances regarding the transfer of Forestry Commission Scotland functions to within the civil service, we remain unconvinced by the long-term benefits of this move.

“Our primary concern is the loss of expertise that could take place as an agency focused on forestry is replaced by a division of government that is more likely to adopt a generalist approach to staffing and knowledge.

“Our members hugely value the work and long-term vision of Forestry Commission Scotland staff and would be saddened to see this diminished. It should be recognised that our apprehension has no relevance to any incumbent government. We are less worried about the short-term future of Forestry Commission Scotland functions and more concerned that in 10 to 15 years that the civil service won’t have been able to develop expertise in the way FCS currently does.”

Scottish Land & Estates added that it was pleased that the Scottish Government recognised industry concerns about compulsory purchase orders even if they planned to keep the mechanism within the legislation.

Ms Gray continued: “As we said in our evidence last week, it seems unnecessary to roll over compulsory purchase powers for Ministers into new legislation - and extend it to include land for sustainable development purposes – when it has never been used for more than 50 years under the current Act.

“Whilst we remain firmly of that view, we are pleased that the Cabinet Secretary is willing to look at how such a power would be utilised in greater detail before proceeding. We, and other stakeholders in the sector, will be pleased to provide input into this process.”

 

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