MANY kind words have been said about Fergus Ewing MSP in the last few weeks, with tributes pouring in from across the forestry sector. He hasn’t died – merely left ministerial office after 14 years – but there are many for whom the loss feels very much like a bereavement.

The strength of feeling is understandable. His legacy is an admirable one. As Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (later Rural Economy and Tourism), Mr Ewing set up the Mackinnon Review in 2016, to look at the barriers to creating new woodland in Scotland – and led on the full devolution of forestry policy to Scotland. He also delivered the Scottish Forestry Strategy in 2019, a blueprint through to 2029 which enjoys all-party support.

Only 4500 hectares of new woodland was being created annually when he took office, but this rose to 11,000 hectares in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Understanding farming and forestry are complementary, he also pushed for them to work together effectively for the good of the wider rural economy.

Following the SNP’s recent cabinet reshuffle, responsibility for forestry now comes under Mairi McAllan in the newly created role of Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform. Ms McAllan will report to Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport and to Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.

These are not names completely alien to the world of forestry, but there are concerns this changing of the guard could be seized on by certain groups to resurrect out-dated and inaccurate narratives about the forestry sector in Scotland.

It was interesting to see trade body Confor, which for many years enjoyed a highly fruitful relationship with Mr Ewing, rush to reassure members it would work to combat a likely “return to increased negative campaigning by those who simply don’t wish to accept that productive forestry and using more wood should have an important role to play in Scotland’s efforts to tackle the climate an nature emergencies”.

Recent attacks on productive forestry in The Times and Daily Mail suggest these fears are not unfounded.

The reshuffle is just one of many stories covered in the June issue of Forestry Journal. Other features include:

• Jock McKie, MD of John Deere Forestry speaks his mind on the sector’s challenges;

• A focus on forestry first aid and machine operator training;

• Our monthly Buyer’s Guide focusing on chainsaws on the ground.

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