Forestry is broadly devolved and policy in Scotland is set by the Scottish Ministers, however, the management of forestry in Scotland – including the Scottish Ministers’ National Forest Estate – has remained with the Forestry Commissioners, a cross-border public authority.
In June 2015, the Scottish Ministers announced that they would jointly explore options with the UK Government to complete the devolution of forestry. A Forestry Governance Project Board, consisting of senior officials from the Scottish, UK and Welsh Governments and from the Forestry Commission has been considering options in relation to legislation, financial arrangements and cross-border functions. The agreed desired outcomes of the Board’s work are:
effective arrangements for the transfer of the Forestry Commissioners’ powers and duties, as they relate to Scotland, to the Scottish Ministers;
equitable financial arrangements and an orderly ‘de-commissioning’ of the Forestry Commissioners as a cross-border public authority; and
a legacy of refreshed and strengthened cross-border cooperation and partnership working between England, Scotland and Wales on relevant forestry matters.
Key to achieving the Governments wider ambitions for forestry is the completion of devolution. The three principal activities required to do this are:
- the introduction of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill
- Scotland Act Orders to wind up the Forestry Commissioners as a cross border public authority and help establish new cross-border arrangements
- new organisational arrangements in Scotland
A public consultation, The Future of Forestry in Scotland, was held in 2016 which included proposals for new organisational arrangements, cross-border arrangements and a modern legislative framework. Responses to the consultation were published on the Scottish Government website followed by an independant analysis by Craigforth.
The commitment to completing the devolution of forestry was reiterated in the Scottish National Party’s 2016 manifesto and is one of a number of forestry-related commitments in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2017-18.