5 Consideration of Reasonable Alternatives
5.1.1 The 2005 Act requires that the Scottish Government also identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effects on the environment of any reasonable alternatives to the draft Strategy, taking into account its objectives and geographical scope.
5.1.2 The extent to which alternatives could be considered 'reasonable' was influenced by the existing legislative and policy context the document must reference and align with, and the current Government commitments and targets such as the woodland creation target in the Climate Change Plan 2018.
5.1.3 The draft Strategy has been developed to articulate the Scottish Government's ambition to expand Scotland's forests and woodlands to deliver greater social, environmental and economic benefits; promote SFM; support the implementation of the Scottish Government's National Outcomes; and, to meet the requirements of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018. The Act outlines the broad content of the Strategy (e.g. setting out a vision, objectives, priorities and policies etc.), as well as how it should be prepared and consulted on.
5.1.4 In developing the Strategy, the Scottish Government drew on evidence on the key issues facing forestry over the next 10 years (the period of the Strategy), and the requirements of the Act, as a basis for developing the 50 year vision and the 10-year economic, social and environmental objectives and priorities. These key issues, and the scope of the Strategy's vision, objectives and priorities for action were discussed with a broad range of Scottish Government policy teams, representatives from the SEA Consultation Authorities, and external stakeholders. Engagement with external stakeholders was mainly through the Forestry Strategy Reference Group (which includes representatives from Confederation of Forest Industries, National Farmers Union for Scotland, Scottish Environment Link, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Community Woodland Association and academia). This engagement process informed the development of the core content of the Strategy.
5.1.5 Taking this into account, these alternatives were considered, but were not identified as appropriate:
- 'Do nothing' scenario - i.e. the Scottish Government could choose not to publish a new Forestry Strategy for Scotland. However, when the second Land Use Strategy (2016-2021) was published, a commitment was made to review the Forestry Strategy to ensure it aligned with relevant Scottish Government policies and priorities. This commitment was carried through to the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018 and Scottish Ministers now have a duty to prepare and publish a strategy. The Act outlines the content of the Strategy and how it must be prepared (including consultation requirements), reviewed and reported on. A key aspect of the development of the Strategy is to ensure appropriate stakeholder consultation. Therefore, the "Do nothing" approach is also not a viable alternative for inclusion in the assessment
- Consideration of priorities allocated under a specific objective. This was not considered to be a realistic alternative because of the crosscutting nature of the priorities across different objectives, and the equal importance of each of the pillars of sustainability (translating to the objectives). This was also not identified as a realistic alternative because the actual content of the Strategy would not be sufficiently different to generate different environmental effects.