Inverness-based forestry student Heloise Le Moal has been awarded a £1000 grant to compare Scotland’s approach to community-owned woodlands with municipally owned examples found in other European countries.

Ms Le Moal, 26, a forest management student at the University of the Highlands and Islands, will travel to France, Belgium and Switzerland as part of her research project, enabled by the The Scottish Land Commission.

Her research will look at the historical development of municipal woodlands in those countries, how they are managed, what for and who benefits from them, building on the Commission’s theme of exploring land use decision making in the international context, and how in compares to Scotland.

Ms Le Moal is the first recipient of the Commission’s national student award, which is open to any student studying at a Scottish academic institution to undertake a land reform-related piece of research. SLC chief executive Hamish Trench, said: “Heloise’s research connects to some very current issues for land reform in Scotland, including climate change, co-operative land ownership and local governance. Her research will add to our increasing number of international case studies that help us to stimulate new ways of thinking about land ownership and use in Scotland.

“The award is a great opportunity for students interested in land reform to work with us and explore issues, gather evidence and spark debate and understanding.”

Heloise started an HND in forestry at Inverness College UHI’s Scottish School of Forestry in 2016 before progressing onto the university’s BSc forest management degree. She was intrigued by Scotland’s community woodlands as her native France relies instead on municipal woodlands, called ‘Forets communales’. In her application she said that the consequences of climate change have spurred her on since she was 12 and sees land reform as crucial to tackling the climate crisis.

“As a young woman in forestry I am thrilled to get this chance and I am very grateful to the Scottish Land Commission,” she said.