FORESTRY sector chiefs have praised the “pragmatic and positive” approach Scottish politicians have taken to the new Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill, following the publication of the latest version this week.

Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall said that better legislation had emerged as a result of careful consideration of more than 130 amendments put forward to the draft Bill, which will be the first new forestry legislation in 50 years, completing the full devolution of forestry to Scotland.

The trade body worked closely with the MSPs of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee to press for 'crucial changes' to the original draft. The result is a commitment to guarantee future timber supply and a recognition of the need for forestry expertise at the heart of government. This is likely to come in the form of the appointment of a Chief Forester or similar new role.

Confor is now hopeful that a guarantee of new woodland creation will be proposed before the Bill proceeds to Stage 3. There will then be a debate on Stage 3 of the Bill in the New Year, with legislation expected to be on the statute books before the summer.

Mr Goodall said: “There has been real consensus on the broad principles of the Bill and the need to support Scotland’s £1 billion forestry and wood-processing industry and secure the 25,000-plus jobs it supports.

“We have seen a very pragmatic and positive approach from MSPs of all parties and from Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing. They have listened to the views of experts and we have better legislation in prospect as a result.

“The current Scottish Government is committed to planting more trees and increasing woodland cover – but we need this commitment to be in the Bill to ensure future governments are similarly committed,” he explained. “Confor was delighted that an amendment on future timber supply was approved, as that future supply is crucial to build confidence in the industry, which has led to well in excess of £50 million per year being invested in Scottish forestry over the last decade.”