Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)
Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (REC)
1. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to improve the levels of community engagement in order to mitigate any objections or complaints concerning new forest developments and land-use changes. (242)
- The Scottish Government is committed to meaningful community engagement to inform the development of woodland creation proposals. Under the Scottish Government Forestry Grant Scheme applicants for woodland creation support must meet the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard that states that "consideration should be given to involving people in the development of forestry proposals". Furthermore, the Scottish Government is producing guidance on Community Engagement to facilitate this process, and the Confederation of Forest Industries (representing forestry owners, managers and processors) has also produced a guidance note on stakeholder engagement that was promoted through the Mackinnon review process.
2. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to include restocking targets and to ensure any backlog in restocking the National Forest Estate is addressed. It also called on the Scottish Government to consider the impact that climate change may have on new species of pests and diseases, and therefore the levels of carbon capture. (260)
- In this Plan, the Scottish Government focuses on emissions reductions. However, it is fair that stakeholders highlighted the importance of managing existing woodlands, so as not to reduce the carbon sink. The key to this is ensuring that woodlands are managed sustainably, in accordance with the UK Forestry Standard, which is a key Government policy. An explicit reference to the importance of sustainably managing Scotland's existing woodlands has been added to the forestry section of the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry chapter of the final Plan.
- The Scottish Government's Control of Woodland Removal Policy has established the presumption that woodland removal should be kept to the minimum and where woodland is felled it should be replanted, or where a change of land use is permitted under the planning system that compensatory planting is carried out in a different location. A reference to this policy has been added to the forestry section of the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry chapter of the final Plan.
- To assist this we must also continue to minimise permanent woodland loss by ensuring that forests are replanted after felling. The Scottish Government has taken action since the Committee's report in March 2017. This includes discussions with industry stakeholders, to understand their concerns on restocking and the publication by Forest Enterprise Scotland of a Restocking Strategy for Scotland's National Forest Estate with input from the forestry sector.
- The Scottish Government will be reviewing restocking- guidance in line with the new forestry legislation (Forest and Land Management (Scotland) Bill), developing the successor to the current forestry strategy, and in developing the regulations that will underpin the regulation of felling and restocking in the future to reflect the desire that restocking is carried out timeously.
3. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to consider the funding options available to support those farmers wishing to participate in forestry activity in the context of higher payments for agriculture activity on their land and any competing subsidy requirements. (263)
- The Scottish Government supports productive, sustainable mixed land use where forestry and other land uses such as farming, recreation and sporting interests work well together and are managed in an integrated way. The Scottish Rural Development Plan 2014-20 encourages better integration between woodland creation and farming by allowing farmers that create woodlands to retain their single farm payment. Furthermore, under the Sheep and Trees initiative a grant package has been developed to better reflect the opportunities for integrating farming and forestry enterprises. A reference has been added to the forestry section of the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry chapter of the final Plan.
4. The Committee noted that the Scottish Government has not met its forestry targets since the last Plan. However, it acknowledged that plans have been put in place which seeks to address this failure and improve planting rates in future. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to include an action in the Plan to keep the progress on the implementation of the Mackinnon recommendations under review. (231, 240)
- The Scottish Government recognises this is going to be a big challenge but recently Forestry Commission Scotland has started to see a significant upsurge of woodland creation activity with more applications for planting coming in. This upturn in applications has given us confidence that over the next few years we will achieve 10,000 hectares a year.
- To increase the pace and scale of tree planting to meet these ambitious targets the Scottish Government has taken decisive action by implementing the Mackinnon Report recommendations to streamline the planting approval process; providing more attractive grant rates for native woodlands in remote areas; increasing the grant funding for woodland creation by £4 million in 2017/18; and working with community, public and private sector investors to explore new partnership funding models. The Scottish Government will publish grant processing data to monitor the speed of forestry grant application processing. This is referenced in the Plan.
5. The Committee called for the Scottish Government to consider how it may support the improved education, awareness and uptake in the construction industry. (249)
- The Scottish Government is already working closely with the construction industry, designers, specifiers and architects on the use and benefits of using wood products in construction. Through the Forestry Commission Scotland's Timber Development Programme, the Scottish Government will continue to support the Scottish forestry sector to help deliver our ambition to increase the use of wood products through research, innovation and knowledge transfer. This knowledge will be disseminated through campaigns such as 'Wood for Good', the timber industry's campaign to promote use of wood in design and construction, and Forestry Commission publications, such as 'Sustainable Construction Timber' which provide specific advice on sourcing and specifying local timber.
6. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to set out in the Plan the calculation for how much CO2 the planned planting targets are anticipated to capture. It also called on the Scottish Government to give greater consideration to the research required into the benefits of planting the 'right tree in the right location' in order to achieve optimum carbon capture. (255)
- Woodland creation delivers a range of Scottish Government commitments on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable supply of wood products to the Scottish forestry industry. The target in the draft plan is therefore expressed in terms of 'hectares of woodland created' which is more meaningful in terms of delivery.
- Woodland creation will be taken forward in a sustainable way, including working closely with a range of stakeholders to ensure appropriate consideration of Scotland's distinctive upland landscapes. This includes following the guidance included in Local Authority Forest and Woodland Strategies. Modern sustainable forestry principles as outlined in the UK Forestry Standards ensure that new woods are 'the right woods in the right place for the right purpose' including for carbon capture . The Scottish Government will continue to commission research into optimising the range of benefits derived from woodland creation and management including carbon capture.
7. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to include targets for hardwood and native broadleaf trees in order to maximise biodiversity and to increase resilience to pests and diseases. (241)
- The Scottish Government's targets for woodland creation will be taken forward in a sustainable way and require the creation of a range of different woodland types, on different sites, with different objectives. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the creation of at least 3,000 hectares of new native woodland a year (Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: Route Map 2020) and to help deliver this has already committed to increase the investment in the creation of new native woodland in the Highlands of Scotland.
Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR)
1. The Committee recommended that the final Plan should include explicit confirmation that forestry and peatland restoration goals should not conflict, and that activities to meet tree planting targets cannot be carried out on peatlands. (475)
- The Scottish Government recognises that forestry operations on deep peatland can, in some circumstances, result in an overall release of carbon due to changes in the soil. The current UK Forestry Standard, which is the Scottish Government's benchmark for sustainable forestry, has a presumption against planting on deep peaty soils.
2. The Committee recommended that the final Plan should include detail on the protection and continuation of funding for peatland restoration. The Committee asked that the detail provided by the Cabinet Secretary in correspondence on deer management and peatland restoration, and detail on monitoring and protection issues, in relation to restored peatland and forestry should be included in
the final Plan to ensure that restored carbon sinks were not damaged by other causes such as deer.
(453 & 458)
- The final Plan includes a monitoring framework which will allow Parliament and others to monitor delivery of our peatland commitments. It is important to recognise delivery of peatland restoration can be affected by a number of factors such as the availability of contractors and the weather. For example, snowfall from November 2017 onwards has impacted a number of restoration projects by affecting site accessibility and the ability to undertake physical restoration.
- The Plan sets out the Scottish Government's ambitions for peatland restoration, an agenda which is shared with other partners such as individual land managers. There is an important role for the SNH led Peatland Action initiative to support this delivery and we will continue to ensure funding is available. There are also important synergies to be made with other funding initiatives across the public and private sector, eg the Peatland Code initiative. This reflects the multiple benefits that peatland restoration delivers and a challenge for the monitoring framework will be how we capture all such projects moving forward.
- The final Plan sets out that support will only be provided to restoration projects that are sustainable and have long term commitment from land managers to maintain restored peatlands. This will ensure that issue such as deer do not damage restored peatlands and create further, unnecessary, pressures on public funds.
3. The Committee recommended that the Scottish Government explores the actions within its power to prevent fertilisers containing peat from being sold and used in Scotland. (463)
- The commercial availability of compost containing peat is a global rather than Scottish issue. The Scottish Government has offered its support to industry led initiative to phase out use and the national Peatland Group will continue to explore opportunities, e.g. to profile of the issue and the efficacy of alternative fertilizers.
Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee
1. The Committee recommended that the final Plan reinstate a section on blue carbon, outlining progress in research since the RPP2 (including specific areas explored such as sea kelp) and indicating the severity of the gap between the current research and what will be required to secure policies and proposals in this area in the future. (543)
- The final Plan includes a section on Blue Carbon. The section refers to our programme of work including research into the role of Blue Carbon in carbon sequestration. Blue carbon is currently not included in the UK greenhouse gas inventory. Scientific work is ongoing internationally to consider whether it will be integrated into future inventory reporting.