A positive refresh of forestry policy
The Scottish Government recently announced it will be undertaking a review of the Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) that has been running since 2015. With the current pressure on public finances, this might give rise to suspicions that the golden time in forestry could be coming to an end. However, Scotland’s Environment Minister Mairi McAllan took the opportunity to announce the refresh during the COP27 event, in a speech where she also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to forestry. She noted the contribution that forestry makes to net zero, tackling nature loss, whilst also playing a significant role in the rural economy.
The Scottish Government is proud of the fact that the vast majority of tree planting in the UK has occurred north of the border. Such is the commitment to continue along this trajectory, its target is for 18,000ha per annum of new woodland planting by 2025. To achieve this, the minister stated that the grants scheme will be strengthened to support the forestry industry and increase domestic timber supplies. The future of the FGS will be set out within the Scottish Agricultural Bill, with a consultation due to commence in the New Year and last 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, in England, the game of political musical chairs has now stopped, with Trudy Harrison (MP for Copeland) taking up the tree planting and forestry portfolio from Zac Goldsmith. It’s early days to see if, and how, the English government will continue with their commitment to delivering their ‘fair share’ of the tree planting targets (30,000ha per annum across the UK by the end of the current parliament). But it will be particularly interesting to see if the new minister will intervene on the growing backlog of England Woodland Creation Offer applications and provide greater policy support to enable more tree planting schemes to be approved.
There will no doubt be a big question over whether commercial forestry will play a much bigger role in England than before. Doing so could start to significantly open up the interest in tree planting in England. The initial indications are very positive, with a recent LinkedIn post suggesting that Ms Harrison is committed to ‘slashing the time it takes to plant trees and supporting much more coniferous planting too’. The Minister is due to speak at the upcoming Confor UK Policy conference (8 December 2022) and we look forward to hearing her develop this line.
There is a lot of good support for more tree planting which is exciting news, though it will be interesting to see how the market responds to the recent change in additionally clause within the Woodland Carbon Code. Irrespective, there remains some very good deals and investment opportunities around forestry and woodland creation, with strong support and a good suite of grants available.
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