Concern over forest policy

Picture: Drew Henry
Picture: Drew Henry

Competing policy targets and vague timescales for their implementation may be hampering the exciting potential of forests and woodlands in the south of Scotland.

That is the message from a new briefing produced by SRUC’s Rural Policy Centre for the Crichton Institute.

The south of Scotland is one of the most wooded regions in Scotland with tree cover of 19% in the Scottish Borders and 31% in Dumfries and Galloway.

The region is important for its high total wood processing capacity.

Key opportunities for forest and woodland development include employment and economic opportunities; local timber processing and use; contributions to a low carbon future; and tourism opportunities.

SRUC Rural Society Research Dr Artur Steiner explained: “In the south of Scotland, forests and woodlands have the potential to further contribute to local development and to play a critical role in the success of Scotland’s wider economy, environment and culture.

“But because policy making about forests and woodlands often falls into other policy domains, for example land use, recreation or education, it frequently happens in silos - at both national and local levels.

“This means the potential of this important resource to contribute to national outcomes such as increasing good health and wellbeing is not being maximised.”

The briefing recommends that the private sector, public organisations and communities need to work collaboratively to understand mutual priorities, address challenges and design appropriate strategies for woodlands and forests that are integrated with sustainable land use.

“Our new briefing proposes that a joint, robust vision of what different stakeholders want from the land they use needs to be created,” said Dr Steiner.