The Scottish government said Scotland’s £1 billion forestry sector would in future be “fully accountable to Scottish ministers and the Scottish Parliament” as it prepared to introduce its Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill.
The bill would deliver “more effective use of Scotland’s publicly owned land,” said the Scottish government.
“The National Forest Estate will be managed to deliver economic, environmental and social outcomes and the Scottish Government will be able to offer land management experience and expertise to others.”
Separately, the Scottish government will create a new executive agency called Forestry and Land Scotland and a dedicated forestry division within government.
Scotland’s forestry industry, which supports 25,000 jobs, “will benefit from the bill’s modern approach to forestry development, support and regulation,” the Scottish government said.
“New organisational structures for forestry in Scotland are also being announced.
“Together these changes will enable the Scottish government to better support the industry to create growth in the rural economy, mitigate climate change and develop the role forestry plays in health, education and recreation.”
The Scottish government said the bill would deliver improved accountability, transparency and policy alignment — with forestry now “fully accountable to Scottish ministers and the Scottish Parliament” — and a modernised legislative framework to develop, support and regulate the sector in Scotland.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland’s forests and woodlands are among our most valuable rural assets and our ambition is for them to expand and flourish.
“They contribute significantly to our ambitious climate change targets, soaking up about 10 million tonnes of CO2 each year.
“And they help to build growth and prosperity, contributing £1 billion each year to the Scottish economy and supporting 25,000 jobs.
“Our forests come in all shapes and sizes: productive forests, iconic native pinewoods and treasured native woodlands. Each is valuable in its own way.
“The bill and other changes announced today will enable us to deliver on our bold ambitions. Existing staff will transfer to new bodies as civil servants and I value their knowledge and experience.
“We will continue to work to ensure forestry plays a leading role in Scottish communities for generations to come.”
Carol Evans, Woodland Trust Scotland Director, said: “We welcome the focus which the Scottish government are placing on the role of woods and trees across Scotland.
“Forest industries are worth £1 billion every year to Scotland, with a large part of that coming from the landscape and recreation benefits of irreplaceable ancient and native woodland.
“This forestry bill is an opportunity for the official definition of forestry to catch up with fifty years of improved practice on the ground.
“Modern forestry is no longer just about timber supply, but about sustainable forest management, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, community engagement, and tourism.”