Update: Forestry Devolution
The Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed to the general principles of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill at the end of the ‘Stage 1’ debate, on Tuesday 7 of November.
The Scottish Government and the Forestry Commission in Scotland are now working jointly under a Forestry Devolution Programme to manage all activity required in Scotland to complete the devolution of forestry. Bridget Campbell, Director Environment & Forestry in the Scottish Government, is the sponsoring Director and chairs the programme board, Keith Connal is the programme’s Senior Responsible Owner, and the project leads include Jo O’Hara MICFor, Simon Hodge FICFor and Ginny Gardner. This programme is designed to complement the work since 2015 by the Scottish, UK and Welsh Governments and the Forestry Commission under a Forestry Governance Project Board co-chaired by the Scottish Government and Defra. It principally has considered legislation requirements and future cross-border arrangements.
“The main elements of the Scottish Forestry Devolution Programme include:
- Transferring the Forestry Commissioners’ powers and duties, in so far as they relate to Scotland, to Scottish Ministers, which will lead to the management of forestry in Scotland being fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament, and to the Forestry Commissioners no longer being a cross-border public authority;
- Introducing a new statutory framework for the regulation and support of forestry in Scotland;
- Establishing new organisational arrangements (a dedicated Forestry Division and an executive agency, Forestry and Land Scotland) to deliver Scottish Ministers’ forestry functions, which will involve the transfer of Forestry Commission staff to the Scottish Government and the retention of the current separation between those functions currently carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland (regulation, support, advice, grants, etc) and by Forest Enterprise Scotland (management of Scottish Ministers’ National Forest Estate for multiple outcomes);
- Introducing, under joint agreement between the Scottish, UK and Welsh Governments and the Forestry Commission, refreshed and strengthened cross-border co-operation on a range of matters including tree health, forestry science and research and common codes such as the UK Forestry Standard.
The Scottish Government’s commitment to completing the devolution of forestry is an integral aspect of its wider ambitions for forestry in Scotland. A modern statutory framework, together with improved governance and accountability, strengthened cross-border arrangements, and new organisational arrangements which will build on the best of the Forestry Commission and maintain skills and expertise, will support this valuable sector and help to maximise the economic, environmental and social outcomes from forestry and woodlands.
Progress so far
As already noted, the legislative work is well underway. The Scottish Parliament’s Official Report on the Stage 1 debate on the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill can be found here. You can also find on the Scottish Parliament’s website the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s report on the Bill and the Scottish Government’s response.
The Bill now moves into ‘Stage 2’, when the REC Committee will scrutinise the Bill in greater detail and consider possible amendments.
During the Stage 1 debate, the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity announced the outcome of discussions with the UK and Welsh Governments and the Forestry Commission on cross-border arrangements. There will be new shared responsibility for key cross-border functions, with each government co-ordinating delivery of one or more functions on behalf of all three administrations. Scotland will take the lead on the UK Forestry Standard, the Woodland Carbon Code and forestry economics. The Cabinet Secretary also announced that the arrangements include the Forest Research agency remaining intact as an executive agency of the Forestry Commissioners to provide expertise in forestry science, statistics and inventory in support of the forestry functions in the three administrations.
Ministers are committed to maintaining continuity of delivery as we transition to the new cross-border arrangements, which will be in place by April 2019. A Memorandum of Understanding will capture the details of the new governance, commissioning and funding arrangements.
Work is underway to establish the new organisational arrangements, with projects on establishing the new agency and the dedicated Forestry Division beginning methodically to work through a range of matters, and arrangements being put in place to support the planned transfer of staff.”