Labour has branded the SNP's damaging plans to lease a quarter of Scotland's forest estate over 75 years a waste of taxpayers' money.

In a written response to parliamentary questions by Elaine Murray, Labour's environment spokesperson, the Minister Mike Russell has revealed that private firms who lease the land for cutting rights will not only make a profit out of the trees paid for by the taxpayer, but they can also apply for government funding to plant new woodlands.

Elaine Murray said:

"This is a win win situation for these private firms and no one else.


"They could chop down timber that has been planted at public expense, walk away with the profit and then get paid to re-plant more trees.


"This would not seem to me to be consistent with getting best value for the taxpayer.

"If the SNP government goes ahead with the plans it will also damage the interests of farmers and other forestry organisation which compete for a share of funds under the Scotland Rural Development Programme.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that Mike Russell's plans to lease off a quarter of the forestry estate are ill-thought out and lack a proper business plan.

"We believe if forests are leased out for the next seven or eight decades it would be damaging for public access, wildlife projects and it would chip away at the achievements of the Forestry Commission.

"We'll continue to fight these proposals and the SNP cannot ignore the groundswell of opinion against these plans."


Parliamentary Questions and Answers:

Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether land in the public forest estate that had been leased
to private interests would be eligible for grant payments under the Scotland Rural Development Programme. (S3W-18586)

Mr Michael Russell:
Yes, this land would be eligible for grant payments.


Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether the biodiversity duty under the Nature Conservation
(Scotland) Act 2004 would apply to land in the public forest estate that was leased to private interests. (S3W-18585)

Mr Michael Russell:


Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what gross value added it estimates to be associated with
timber in the public forest estate. (S3W-18580)

Mr Michael Russell:
The Scottish timber industry alone provides 13,200 full time jobs and is worth 460 million by the latest estimate. The
National Forest Estate currently produces 44% of the timber in Scotland, so a reasonable estimate would be that the NFE
contributes around 200 million GVA per year. Also, nearly 20,000 jobs are attributed to tourism and recreation spending,
which is estimated at 209 million. The bulk of recreation and tourism related spend from forests is on the NFE, so if a
figure of 75% of this spending is used, the NFE contributes around 150 million GVA. Thus the total GVA generated by the
NFE using the above assumptions is 350 million per year.

Link to online petition against these plans:

You can share this news release with others on social networking sites , or post it to your online profile, or send it to a friend, by clicking on the "Share This" link immediately below.



Back to previous page