Elaine Murray has hit back at Environment Minister Mike Russell after claiming in parliament she had her facts wrong over a funding issue related to the SNP's plans to lease forest land to private firms.

The Minister told parliament on Thursday 'there is no relationship' between the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) and funding for Woods In and Around Town (WIAT) projects.

Ms Murray, Labour's environment spokesperson, said:

"Mike Russell is talking absolute nonsense. The Forestry Commission's own website clearly states that funding for WIAT projects are given out through the SRDP.

"It is a fact that private firms leasing forest land would be eligible to compete for grant payments under the Scotland Rural Development Programme.

"We are concerned that these proposals could impact on the excellent work undertaken by the Forestry Commission if there is less public funding available for local woodlands projects like WIAT.

"I urge the Minister to clear this up and admit he got it wrong."

from the Official Report of the Scottish Parliament, 15th. January 2009

Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): In the minister's answer of 18 December last year to my written question S3W-18586, he confirmed that land in the public forest estate that had been leased to private interests, as envisaged in his consultation document "Climate Change and the National Forest Estate: Consultation on forestry provisions in the Scottish Climate Change Bill", would be eligible for grant payments under the Scotland rural development programme. Is the minister not concerned that, should those proposals be implemented, there will actually be less public funding available for the organisations that he mentioned in his answer to Mr Kidd, whether community groups or other landowners, to develop woodlands in urban or, indeed, rural environments?

Michael Russell: I am not concerned about that in the slightest, because it is simply not going to happen. The reality is that the funding that I have just mentioned will continue to be available, including, I hope, in future tranches of funding and spending rounds. There is no relationship between the two sets of funding, so I would advise the member to look at the facts (cont...)

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