The Scotsman contained an article yesterday about the long-term leasing of 25% of Scotland's forests and the fact that 71% of people, who responded to a Scottish government consultation, were against it. About 12% supported the government's proposals and the rest were undecided or neutral (from a total of 399 replies).
The document also highlighted the Forestry Commission Scotland's union had collected about 3,700 signatures against and the Lib Dems say they have gathered a 12,000 name petition also against the proposals.
Mike Russell states on the FC website, " To reach our vision of 25% of Scotland being covered in woodland we need to create 50,000 hectares of new woodland, roughly 25 times the size of Edinburgh. We need a new way of doing this and it will cost more money.
More woodland can help tackle greenhouse gas emissions and importantly supports local businesses and farm diversification. If we can raise new funds from leasing our forests then it will kick start a massive expansion in woodland creation and conservation benefits so it's a win win situation".
Good spin Mike but it's certainly not a win win situation, it's a win lose one and Scotland would be the loser. Here in Tayside forest covers around 13% of the land, 35% is publicly owned and 65% privately owned. With this proposal it could well result in Tayside forests being privately owned give or take 5% in 99 years time and plenty long enough for leased forests to be accepted as the norm.
In my naivity surely the Scottish government could find the money to introduce the 'new way of doing this' and not rent off our land to private businesses, who we can be assured, will make large profits.
Within the Forest Commission there is a great deal of expertise and skill. Why can't these people be used to introduce more new methods and more people encouraged towards a career in forestry? After all, Scotland's landowners, foresters and universities played an important part in the introduction and dissemination of scientific forestry in Britain.
We own little enough of our country and this proposal bodes badly for Scotland. It is privatisation by the back door and no amount of spin will convince me otherwise. The Scottish government need to drop this idea now, before it damages their credibility.
As for Sarah Boyack saying in the Scotsman that the lease plan must be dropped, that's a labour U-turn here in Scotland. Westminster are planning to lease off chunks of English forests so it is labour party policy. Thankfully forestry is a devolved issue. We have a government which listens to the people and hopefully Roseanna Cunningham, in her new post, will hear the voices of dissent.