Publication - Consultation paper

Scotland's Forestry Strategy 2019-2029 draft: strategic environmental assessment (SEA)

Published: 22 Nov 2018

Findings of the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the consultation draft of Scotland's Forestry Strategy 2019-2029.

120 page PDF

2.5 MB

120 page PDF

2.5 MB

Scotland's Forestry Strategy 2019-2029 draft: strategic environmental assessment (SEA)
4 SEA Methodology

120 page PDF

2.5 MB

4 SEA Methodology

4.1 Framework for assessing environmental effects

4.1.1 The draft Forestry Strategy has been assessed to ascertain the potential for significant environmental effects. The approach for predicting the environmental effects of the Strategy, the consideration of mitigation and enhancement measures and implementing a monitoring programme are described in this section.

4.1.2 A number of previous SEAs, particularly those pertaining to policies with implications for land use, set an appropriate framework for the present assessment. These assessments have already compiled a considerable amount of baseline data on forests and woodlands in Scotland, and have explored the possible environmental impacts that could result from changes to the sector. Recent examples include:

  • 'Getting the best from our land - A land use strategy for Scotland 2016-2021'[79];
  • 'Climate Change Plan: The Third Report on Policies and Proposals 2017-2032' and 'Scottish Energy Strategy: The Future of Energy in Scotland' (joint assessment)[80];
  • 'Proposals for a Draft Climate Change Bill'[81];
  • 'The Scottish Forestry Strategy 2006[82];
  • SEA of Forest District Plans[83];
  • SEA of the Regulations on Felling and Restocking[84].

4.1.3 Additional SEAs of relevance include those undertaken on National Planning Framework 3 and Scottish Planning Policy[85] (joint), 'A Consultation on 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity'[86], and 'Climate Ready Scotland: Draft Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme'[87]. The assessment of these policy areas has largely been undertaken by the Scottish Government's SEA team, thereby providing the added benefit of good institutional knowledge of the broader policy area. Relevant findings have been collated from these previous assessments and used to guide this assessment.

Table 4: Scoping of environmental topics for the Forestry Strategy SEA

SEA Topic


Population and human health

  • Potential positive effects on health and wellbeing for people of all ages through the provision of quality recreational environments, increased availability of and access to greenspace, and the promotion of more active lifestyles
  • Potential to improve health and wellbeing through educational and skill development activities (e.g. environmental volunteering)
  • Potential positive effects on health and wellbeing through the provision of employment opportunities
  • Potential positive effects on individual and community wellbeing and social capital through the provision of opportunities in the management and ownership of land
  • Potential negative effects on individual and community wellbeing through inappropriate land use change and forestry operations (e.g. noise)
  • Potential impacts on human health as a result of changes in air quality


  • Potential for disturbance and destruction of deep peaty soils through planting
  • Potential positive effects on soil stabilisation through woodland creation
  • Potential for improvements in soil condition
  • Potential for forestry operations to adversely impact soil (e.g. increased erosion)


  • Potential positive and negative effects relating to flood risk
  • Potential for improvements and deterioration in surface water and groundwater quality
  • Potential for reduction in water quantity and availability


  • Potential for positive effects on local air quality, particularly from urban woodland
  • Potential for negative effects on air quality through forestry operations
  • Potential negative secondary impacts on air quality from shift towards greater use of forestry-derived biomass in energy generation

Climatic factors

  • Potential to increase natural sequestration of carbon
  • Potential for positive effects through reductions in the use of fossil fuels and associated carbon emissions due to the uptake of low-carbon forestry technologies and the increased use of timber in construction
  • Potential for positive effects in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change
  • Potential to harness positive effects of climate change on species fitness and distribution
  • Potential for various negative impacts on forests and woodlands

Historic environment

  • Potential for physical damage to protected built heritage, monuments and archaeology from tree growth and forestry operations
  • Potential for direct visual effects on the historic environment, including historic landscapes
  • Potential for loss of unknown archaeological resources
  • Potential for negative effects on the setting of historic and cultural assets from inappropriate siting of woodland
  • Potential for positive impacts on woodlands with high historic value

Material assets

  • Potential for positive effects through improvements to degraded land
  • Potential for enhancements to public spaces and greenspace
  • Potential for positive effects from land use change for woodland creation through improved land integration and optimisation (e.g. in relation to transport infrastructure)
  • Potential for more efficient use of resources such as through the reduction of waste and the reuse of waste products in new products


  • Potential for negative and positive effects on landscapes and townscapes from changes in woodland cover.

4.2 Development of Assessment Criteria

4.2.1 The Scoping Report set out environmentally-specific SEA objectives and associated indicator questions to help describe, analyse, and compare environmental effects. The SEA objectives cover all of the SEA topic areas that have been scoped into the assessment (see Table 4) and were derived from the key environmental topics, baseline data, and environmental protection objectives of relevance to the proposal.

4.2.2 The SEA objectives are separate from the Forestry Strategy objectives and priorities although they can influence each other and sometimes overlap. In line with the requirements of the 2005 Act, the SEA objectives cover the environmental topics set out in Schedule 3 of the 2005 Act, including the interrelationship between them.

4.2.3 The SEA objectives were identified based on a contextual analysis and then further refined following the Consultation Authorities responses to the scoping stage. The objectives were subject to the following distilling and tailoring process:

1. Identification of objectives based on issues identified in relation to forestry and the scoping of SEA topics;

2. The objectives were separated into primary objectives (SEA objectives) and secondary objectives or SEA criteria. The criteria were phrased as indicator questions to aid analysis (Table 6);

3. The assessment methodology was updated based on the scoping responses from the Consultation Authorities including clarity of read across from the issues/opportunities to the SEA objectives;

4. The objectives were refined to remove duplication;

5. Relevant PPS were signposted within the objectives.

4.2.4 In line with the 2005 Act the focus of the assessment is the key issues and potential for significant environmental effects (short, medium and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative, secondary, cumulative and synergistic) associated with the proposals, ensuring this is framed in the context of current environmental obligations.

4.2.5 A Scoring System has been used to present information on the relative effects of the Forestry Strategy. This scoring system helps to form an opinion on how significant the impacts would be, with a magnitude ranging from:

Major Positive


There will be a significant beneficial impact or an ongoing / continually improving environmental impact.



There will be a minor cumulative or isolated positive environmental impact.

Insignificant or no impacts


There will be neither a positive nor negative environmental impact.



There will be a minor to moderate negative environmental impact.

Major Negative


There will be a significant adverse impact.

4.2.6 Commentary is provided to justify the scoring with any uncertainties highlighted.

4.2.7 As shown in Table 5 the assessment was undertaken at a number of levels, running alongside the preparation of the Forestry Strategy.

Table 5: Framework used to assess the Forestry Strategy



Stage 1: Initial baseline assessment

Initial assessment of baseline data to establish context within which the Forestry Strategy is being implemented.

Stage 2: Contextual review

and identification of SEA objectives

Undertaken in order to structure the assessment process. Scoping report prepared setting out key issues emerging from the initial assessment and defining methodology.

Stage 3: Assessment of the priorities

The assessment took a broad brush view of the objectives against the overarching SEA objectives in order to identify any potential significant environmental effects at a strategic level. This was used as a reference point for a subsequent level of analysis: a more detailed review of the priorities versus the SEA indicator questions. Outcomes from the assessment were considered during the development of the Strategy as they emerged.

Stage 4: Assessment of new priorities as they emerged

Provided a further insight into content of the Strategy as it developed through stakeholder engagement.

Stage 5: Review of baseline data and adjustment of assessment

Undertaken alongside the assessment to ensure sufficient data was gathered and used to inform judgements, incorporating additional data referred to during the course of the work.

Stage 6: Synthesis of findings

Review of findings from the assessment, identification of significant impacts, as well as measures for mitigation and enhancement. Overall conclusions drawn and Environmental Report prepared. Early and emerging findings have been taken into account by the Strategy as far as possible, during the final stages of preparation of the Strategy.

Table 6: SEA Objectives and Indicators

Objective for each topic

SEA Indicator Questions…Will the Forestry Strategy ….?

Population and human health

Protect and enhance human health and well being

  • Encourage increased participation in outdoor recreation, volunteering, and learning (in line with the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy)?
  • Promote access to open space, greenspace and the wider countryside
  • Enable the benefits associated with a rich natural environment to be realised?

Biodiversity, flora and fauna

Protect and enhance both forested and non-forested (i.e. open-ground) ecosystems

  • Promote the protection and enhancement of designated and non-designated sites, habitats, and species?
  • Contribute to the restoration and expansion of native woodland (in line with the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy)?
  • Avoid the spread of diseases, pests, and invasive non-native species?

Support sustainable deer management

  • Avoid exacerbating adverse impacts on deer populations and woodland areas arising from deer fencing and other deer management approaches (in line with the Code of Practice on Deer Management)?
  • Promote the benefits of sustainable deer management?


Protect high quality and sensitive soils

  • Protect and enhance soil quality, function, and fertility?
  • Support peatland restoration efforts (in line with the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and Climate Change Plan)?
  • Protect and enhance geodiversity features and geomorphological processes?

Maintain and improve soil stability

  • Help to prevent or reduce soil erosion, slope failure, and compaction?


Protect and enhance air quality

  • Help to improve local air quality, particularly in areas of elevated air pollution such as AQMAs?
  • Minimise air quality and nuisance issues associated with forestry-related activity?


Protect and improve the water environment

  • Contribute to RBMP enhancement measures?
  • Avoid declines in surface water and groundwater quality and quantity as a result of forestry-related activity?
  • Support flood prevention measures, where appropriate?

Climatic factors

Reduce the causes and effects of climate change

  • Reduce existing and avoid new greenhouse gas emissions?
  • Help reduce the impacts of a changing climate?
  • Maintain and enhance the carbon sequestration of forest ecosystems?
  • Support the afforestation and peatland restoration targets of the Climate Change Plan?
  • Preserve and enhance existing carbon-rich soils?
  • Increase the potential for low carbon technology to support forestry activities?

Material assets

Promote the effective and sustainable use of forests and woodlands

  • Help to ensure forests and woodlands are sustainably managed using an ecosystems approach (in line with the Land Use Strategy [Policy 1])?
  • Reflect the overarching principles of the Land Use Strategy?
  • Help to promote renewable timber building materials over more carbon intensive materials or imported timbers (in line with the Climate Change Plan)?
  • Minimise waste arisings and promote the reuse of waste such as forestry waste and peat arising from forestry-related activity (in line with Scotland's Zero Waste Plan)?.

Safeguard and enhance existing natural and built resources

  • Improve the quality of vacant and derelict land?
  • Improve the setting of transport routes?
  • Avoid adverse impacts on high-quality agricultural land?

Historic environment

Safeguard the historic environment, including historic landscapes

  • Avoid direct impacts on heritage assets, including archaeological sites and monuments?
  • Protect the setting of heritage assets, including monuments and archaeological sites?
  • Avoid adverse impacts on historic landscapes?
  • Protect and enhance areas of ancient and semi-natural woodland?


Protect and enhance the quality of landscapes and townscapes

  • Protect the diversity and value of Scotland's landscapes?
  • Improve degraded landscapes?


Email: Bob Frost