SCOTLAND has a "huge appetite" for small, locally-owned and locally-beneficial forestry projects.

That was the conclusion of the Forest Policy Group following what it described as its 'landmark'

local forestry conference held in Birnam recently, where over 100 foresters and land managers turned out to hear about alternatives to large-scale industrial forestry.

"In recent years, the industrial forestry sector has been very successful in advancing its agenda and highlighting the economic benefits of its approach to forestry," said the event organisers. "However, little attention has been paid to the outcomes that arise from a smaller-scale, local approach, and this led to the idea for the conference, titled ‘Getting Value from Local Woods’."

Speakers representing a diversity of small businesses – sawmills, nurseries, furniture makers and house builders – had highlighted the opportunities for local production, and the benefits arising. Often local businesses, including community enterprises, were able to generate income and social benefits from woodlands where a mainstream industrial approach had failed.

In particular, the conference highlighted that local forestry generated ‘sticky money’ – income that remains and re-circulates in the community – and generated more jobs per pound of economic activity.

Delegate David Shepherd, owner of Craggach Woods, commented: "This was one of those conferences you know you’ll always remember – I was there when it happened, a significant change."

Forest Policy Group convenor Gordon Gray Stephens added: “We were able to gather together an impressive range of people, both on the platform and the floor, people who are getting things done to release value from Scotland’s woodlands. We need to make sure that Scottish Government also pays attention to this incredibly important part of our forestry sector.”