The Forestry And Land Management (Scotland) Bill Passed

The Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 20 March 2018, but with significant last-minute amendments.

The Bill was introduced by the Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing on 10 May 2017 and aims to complete the devolution of forestry in Scotland. While strategy and policy is already set in Scotland, management of forestry currently lies with the Forestry Commissioners, a UK Non-Ministerial Department which operates in Scotland under the branding of Forestry Commission Scotland (dealing with policy, advice, regulation, grants) and Forest Enterprise Scotland (managing the national forest estate).

We have been providing updates on the progress of the Bill through parliament and you can read our previous blogs here. Once enacted, the Bill will be the first forestry legislation of the Scottish Parliament.

New Agencies

The most noteworthy amendment was the requirement for Scottish Ministers to establish a single agency or two agencies rather than a new government department.

Initial plans by the Scottish Government would have seen the Forestry Commissioners' functions moved in-house to the Scottish Government. This sparked controversy within the sector, with concerns that 100 years of experience and expertise of foresters would be lost. In addition, it was felt by many that the Forestry Commission brand was too well known and well-respected to be abolished.

Many stakeholders were also concerned about the implications of forestry becoming a government department, fearing it would be affected by differing political agendas of the ruling party at any time, whereas forestry, by nature, requires long term strategy.

The amendment has been described as effecting a 'lift and shift', of Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland, to Scottish Government arms-length agencies...

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