Dr Helen McKay OBE FICFor Appointed Chief Forester for Scotland

New voice for the forestry profession

Dr Helen McKay OBE FICFor has been appointed as the new Chief Forester for Scotland.

In her new role, she will provide technical and professional advice on forestry matters to Scottish Government Ministers.

A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Dr McKay has worked for Forest Research since 1988, with a seven-year spell in the Forestry Commission’s Corporate and Forestry Support and a short secondment to the then Forestry Commission Scotland. She currently provides scientific and strategic leadership to the Centre for Sustainable Forestry and Climate Change.

Since 2003, she has also been an editor of the prestigious journal Forestry: An international journal of forest research, and has mentored many research staff in writing peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Welcoming the appointment, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“I’m very pleased that Helen has taken up this very important role. Her years of scientific expertise at the cutting edge of forestry research will be invaluable. 

“Forestry has a very important role to play in our green recovery and we have many challenges ahead. The role will be called upon to keep high professional standards throughout the industry as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

The role of Chief Forester for Scotland will concentrate on providing trusted technical expertise to Ministers, act as Head of Profession for public sector foresters, promoting professional standards in the wider sector, and working with professional bodies to grow the profession of forestry.

Delighted with her appointment, Dr McKay added:

“I am looking forward immensely to working as Chief Forester for Scotland. Times are undoubtedly challenging because of COVID-19 in addition to climate change, pests and diseases as well as Brexit. On the other hand, such challenges can bring the sector together to further strengthen the forestry profession and demonstrate its value to Scotland.”

Dr McKay draws on her family connection with forestry in Scotland. Her maternal grandfather, Neil Hamilton, worked for the Forestry Commission after the WW1 in Glenachulish and her paternal grandfather, Archibald MacGilp, was the factor who helped to plant the mixed forest at Quinish, Mull.

Awarded an OBE in for her services to forest science and forestry, Dr McKay holds a BSc in Ecological Science and PhD from Edinburgh University and is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Environmentalists.

Dr McKay is the second Chief Forester for Scotland with the first being Jo O’Hara, who stepped down at the end of January this year. She will spend approximately 1.5 days a week carrying out her duties as Chief Forester.

Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor, Executive Director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters said:

“I’m delighted that Helen has been appointed to this role. She has been a real advocate of promoting professionalism throughout our sector and I look forward to working with her to showcase forestry as a modern profession to those seeking a green career.”

The position of Chief Forester for Scotland is a requirement of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018. Dr McKay will take up her appointment on 1st August this year.

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