Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our A View from the Forest (previously Forestry Features) newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Wednesday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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IT had been approached with angst and, in some quarters, even trepidation.

Scotland's long-awaited forestry summit, called in the wake of the country's recent planting slump, was the chance for stakeholders to have their views aired and opinions known, bringing together representatives from every facet of the industry.

It was little wonder one or two Scottish Forestry officials had endured a sleepless night on the eve of Tuesday's conference, anxious of the very real possibility they were about to enter the lion's den. Only the idea of facing a snarling pride may have seemed preferable to the reality of fronting up to foresters scorned. 

Forestry Journal: Mairi Gougeon delivered the opening address Mairi Gougeon delivered the opening address (Image: Alan Peebles)

But they needn't have worried. 


Throughout the day, there was an air of respect between delegates (which included the likes of Confor's Stuart Goodall, Scottish Woodlands' David Robertson, and Wallis Weir of the Forestry Contracting Association), perhaps brought about the fact that this was a forestry conference. One of the major bones of contention is that when similar events are held on a wider scale, it doesn't take long for the forestry voices to be drowned out. 

After an opening keynote address from chair Mairi Gougeon, the rural affairs secretary, participants broke into working groups to get to the bottom of the nation's planting woes. And several unifying themes emerged from these discussions.

This included (but was not limited to) frustration over the woodland creation application process, a perceived lack of leadership from government ministers and forestry officials, and mounting problems around deer control.
Forestry Journal: Ben Clinch, of Moray Estates (left), was among the delegatesBen Clinch, of Moray Estates (left), was among the delegates (Image: Supplied)

Certainly from the handful of attendees Forestry Journal spoke to during the summit, these topics reared their head time and time again, with foresters frustrated by the feeling that, too often, one or two dissenting voices are disproportionately weighted towards. As one contractor put it: “Scottish Forestry needs to be able to stand up and not be afraid to upset people.” 

There was also some disappointment that the event solely focused on woodland creation and not more broadly on other issues faced by those on the frontline. But in fairness and as Stuart Goodall remarked during the closing stages, it is impossible to be effective if resources are spread too thinly rather than honing in on one or two major concerns. 

No one seemed surprised by anything brought up (many of these were long-standing complaints), but the chance to air them directly to those making the decisions appeared to be a welcome one, with Paul Lowe, interim CEO of Scottish Forestry, agreeing to collate the opinions and meet with Ms Gougeon in the New Year. A roadmap may later be agreed for the sector. 

The real proof of how successful the venture was will be in the pudding, and it may take a few planting seasons before that becomes clear. 

Can Scotland’s forestry sector wait that long? We will find out. 

Forestry Journal will have more extensive coverage from the summit in January's edition of the magazine.