MSPs have voted to pass the first forestry legislation since Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999, as part of a larger programme of work to complete devolution of forestry to Scotland.
Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill
The Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill passed Stage 3 unanimously on 20th March 2018, albeit with changes to administrative arrangements which originally aimed to replace the Scottish branch of the Forestry Commission with a Holyrood government department.
After a last-minute campaign from foresters, Labour’s Claudia Beamish tabled an amendment for the final debate stipulating that ministers establish “a single agency” rather than a government department. The final wording “an agency or two agencies” was subsequently approved by 63 votes to 61.
MSPs voted for a two-agency approach with Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) continuing outside government, albeit with possible new names, and FES’s public corporation status protected.
Forestry unions had lobbied the Scottish Government to abandon its original intentions, claiming that removal of public corporation status could lead to the loss of £30 million each year to the forestry sector and potentially reduce the amount of timber available.
Among a number of other amendments, opposition members also united to remove some compulsory purchase powers from the Bill.
Fully devolved to Scotland
Ministers must now finalise details for delivering a fully-devolved structure to support an industry worth £1 billion a year. Further information can be found on the Scottish Government’s Forestry webpages.