Woodland Creation Summit – Outcomes of Scottish Woodlands’ Internal Survey
Scottish Woodlands welcomes the opportunity to take part in Scottish Forestry’s Woodland Creation Summit to be held tomorrow in Perthshire.
We look forward to meeting the Cabinet Secretary and her senior civil servants to discuss the way forward for our industry, and for landowners, farmers and investors who wish to help the Scottish Government reach its ambitious tree planting targets to help deliver a range of environmental and economic objectives, including tackling climate change, securing future timber supply, providing jobs and economic growth in rural areas, and halting biodiversity loss. All these can be achieved through the development of well-designed, modern, multi-purpose forests.
As a business, Scottish Woodlands is involved in around one-third of new woodland creations annually across Scotland and has a unique overview of the interactions and processes involved.
In the run up to the summit tomorrow, Scottish Woodlands undertook a survey of front-line staff involved in the forestry grant application process to gauge their views. Some of the findings are outlined below and will inform the company’s contribution to the summit.
The outcomes of this survey were stark, outlining a confused and subjective process, where decisions which have huge bearings on the outcome of projects are often taken unilaterally by conservancy staff, or are not taken at all, leaving applications in limbo. There is no consistency.
The survey also found significant concerns that instances of verbal and racial abuse and physical threats resulting from the woodland creation consultation process are increasing. There is a lack of clear guidance on what is expected of consultees, poor direction on what is acceptable, and a lack of clarity on what they can influence, all of which can lead to frustration and conflict.
Changes to the Woodland Carbon Code implemented in 2022 have severely affected investor confidence, added confusion, and are resulting in less productive forestry being planted. This is a huge opportunity lost.
There are worries that the strong stimulus provided by capital grant payments has waned in the face of strong inflation, but reviewing grant rates alone without having the systems and processes in place to deliver outcomes is not enough. Applicants need clarity on outcomes in a defined period.
The current process is not fit for purpose and there is a serious risk, indeed a certainty, of future targets for Woodland Creation being missed.
We welcome the opportunity to work with Scottish Forestry and other industry participants on overcoming the problems and finding solutions.