Scotland politics

Consultation bid to fully devolve forest management to Holyrood

forest Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Scotland's forestry sector is worth £1bn annually and supports 25,000 jobs

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on the future administration of Scotland's forests.

Some forestry management is still overseen on a UK level, but the Scottish government is pushing for complete devolution of the sector.

Proposals include the creation of a new body to manage the country's forests, a dedicated Holyrood Forestry Division, and a new legislative framework.

Scotland's forestry sector is worth £1bn annually, supporting 25,000 jobs.

While Holyrood currently determines overall strategy and policy for forestry in Scotland, management remains the preserve of the Forestry Commission, a cross-border public authority.

The SNP committed to exploring full devolution in its 2016 election manifesto, and has held talks with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the matter.

'Natural assets'

The consultation launched by ministers is primarily aimed at completing devolution of the sector, to make it directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

It could see the Forestry Act of 1967 replaced with what the government calls "a modern approach to the development, support and regulation of forestry".

Other proposals include the creation of a new body, Forestry and Land Scotland, which would focus initially on the management of the National Forest Estate. but potentially eventually having a remit covering other publicly-owned land.

A dedicated Forestry Division would be set up within the Scottish government to take forward policy and regulation activities.

Mr Ewing said: "The Scottish forestry sector is at the heart of many rural communities, worth £1 billion annually and supporting 25,000 jobs. It also plays a pivotal role in tackling climate change, protecting and growing biodiversity, natural flood management and in improving general health and wellbeing across Scotland.

"The consultation responses will inform and shape our policy, supporting forestry as one of our most important natural assets for generations to come and ensuring that it continues to deliver for the nation and communities across the country."

Industry body Confor welcomed the consultation, saying it was an opportunity to further develop a sector which has grown by 50% since 2008.

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