By Abigail Lloyd
The Scottish Minister for Environment, Land Reform and Climate Change Aileen McLeod, announced last week that the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has agreed for officials to work together to consider the full devolution of the Forestry Commission.
The Scottish Government takes the view that forestry in Scotland is extremely important as it provides a strong contribution to the economy, through timber and tourism; and is also an extremely vital and vast part of the landscape, providing wider social and environmental benefits.
Forestry is currently a devolved matter, thus Scottish Ministers are able to determine forestry policy in Scotland. However, at present the cross-border Forestry Commission remains in control of Scotland's national forest estate and other forestry functions. The Forestry Commission Scotland was established alongside devolution in 1999 in order to reach its own independent policy goals for Scotland's forests, but its powers are still limited by the UK wide organisation. The Scottish Government's aim is to achieve complete devolution of the Forestry Commission so that in their view the management of the forests can be carried out in a manner which suites Scotland's own forestry needs best.
Furthermore, there is a view that as the Forestry Commission Scotland receives a grant from the Scottish Government each year, so the current relationship between policy and spending is not balanced.
If the discussions do lead to full devolution, this will allow the Forestry Commission to become fully integrated with the Scottish Government and thus, satisfy the Scottish Government's aim to have forestry policy implemented fully without any non-Scottish organisations constraining its decisions.