The Scottish Government has a very laudable woodland creation target of 10,000 hectares per year; however, there have been concerns across the forestry sector in Scotland about the timescales and complexities of the official woodland creation approval process.

Encouragingly, these concerns were acted upon by the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP, when he commissioned a review of the approval process. The three month review was undertaken by Jim Mackinnon, former Director for the Built Environment and Chief Planner at the Scottish Government.

Jim Mackinnon’s report, entitled ‘Analysis of current arrangements for the consideration and approval of forestry planting proposals’, was published on 14 December and has been welcomed by the UK Forest Products Association (UKFPA).

David Sulman, Executive Director of UKFPA said, “There has been a pressing need to overhaul the official planting approval process for some time. Improvements, especially in terms of streamlining and accelerating the process, are essential if the Government’s ambitious woodland creation targets are to be met.

“We were pleased to contribute to the review and were very impressed with Jim Mackinnon’s enthusiastic and thorough approach. We welcome the publication of his detailed analysis and hope that the Cabinet Secretary will accept all of its proposals and act to ensure that they are implemented without delay.

“This review has the potential to make a real difference and to result in much needed simplification and acceleration of the official approval process. This development is further evidence of the Scottish Government’s recognition of the value of the forestry and forest products sector and its determination to see its planting targets achieved, thereby ensuring continuity of wood supply, all of which is warmly welcomed.

“We hope that the lessons to be learned from the Mackinnon Report can also be put to good use in England and Wales too, where new planting is at perilously low levels. It is interesting to note that in 2015-16, about 83% of woodland creation in the UK took place in Scotland.”