Forestry and Land Scotland (Meetings)

Portfolio Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament am ar 8 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Ceidwadwyr

To ask the Scottish Government when the rural affairs secretary last met with Forestry and Land Scotland. (S6O-03389)

I note my entry in the register of members’ interests regarding forestry and renewable energy.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

As Alexander Burnett will be aware, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands regularly consults officials from Forestry and Land Scotland. I know that the member is aware that the cabinet secretary raised issues around flooding with Forestry and Land Scotland on his behalf. She regularly meets the organisation. The two most recent meetings, which were focused on finance, took place on 28 March and 1 May this year.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Ceidwadwyr

New freedom of information figures show that, last year, more than a million trees on public land were felled to make way for wind farms. Constituents, such as those near Brown Hill forest at Craig Dorney, are reporting that forest roads that are owned by the Scottish Government are being improved to a higher specification than is required for simple timber extraction. That is clearly being done in expectation of wind farm developments that have yet to be consented, which makes a mockery of the approval process. Is the minister aware of such activity? Does he approve of it? Will those additional costs be met by wind farm developers, or are they just another cost being borne by the taxpayer?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I reiterate the point that I made to your colleague Rachael Hamilton: this is not my bill or my area. I was not aware of the issue that you have raised, but I will get the cabinet secretary to write to you with the details.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

Speak through the chair, please.

A number of members have requested to ask supplementary questions, which will need to be brief.

Photo of Elena Whitham Elena Whitham Scottish National Party

Forestry and Land Scotland is a key institution in relation to Scotland’s land management. What role does the Government envisage that FLS will play in the next chapter of Scotland’s land reform journey as we strive to ensure that our land benefits the country as a whole, not just a privileged few?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

Over the past five years, Forestry and Land Scotland has worked with community groups that want to be more involved in managing Scotland’s national forests and land. The community asset transfer of national forests and land has been integral to the creation of businesses, tourism and recreational opportunities and to the establishment of affordable housing, woodland crofts and community renewable energy schemes, with 25 transfers having been completed to date.

Asset transfer has also empowered communities to address challenges with rural housing and to create new woodland crofts and affordable housing. Communities have benefited from renewable energy developments on national forests and land through community benefit payments from large-scale wind farm creation, for example, which has created substantial funds for local communities to draw on.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, will large FLS land holdings be required to produce publicly accessible land management plans for consultation, thereby bringing much-needed scrutiny by communities and other stakeholders?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I am not quite sure what Mark Ruskell is asking. As far as I am aware, Forestry and Land Scotland is already publicly accessible. If that is not a full enough answer, I ask Mark Ruskell to come back to me, and I will ask the cabinet secretary to write to him.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

Government ministers have repeatedly said that we need to have the right trees in the right places, but farmland in my constituency has recently been bought for tree plantation even though it is useful for food production. Will the minister use any more controls to ensure that we truly get the right trees in the right places?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

As Willie Rennie said, I have consistently said that we should have the right trees in the right places, but I should point out that it is farmers who sell the land to plant trees in the first place. If we bring in controls at a later date, that will be done through the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which is being taken forward by the cabinet secretary.