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 was a policy that, as far as forestry was concerned, made about as much sense as sending unwilling teenagers to the frontline. But in news that will be welcomed by many in the industry, the Scottish Government has confirmed it is reviewing a new law that effectively banned wood-burning stoves in new-build homes. It's all been a right old mess. 

For those who missed it the first time around, let's recap. After ignoring the wishes of rural Scotland and, it seems, the voice of forestry altogether, ministers earlier this year unveiled an updated Building Standards, which came into effect on April 1. Among the many eye-catching policies, the use of 'direct emission heating systems' was forbidden in new-build projects or conversions after that date. Effectively, that ruled out the use of gas or oil boilers, or any form of bioenergy where electricity or heat is generated from organic matter such as wood. Instead, housebuilders were expected to use what are known as 'zero DEH' systems such as heat pumps, solar thermal storage systems or electric storage heaters.


And while exemptions were allowed for emergency back-ups, these could not be the main source of heating, despite costing prohibitively large sums of cash. 

In the weeks that followed this policy's announcement – and announcement is generous, given it only came to the wider public's attention after being shared on social media – forestry professionals didn't hold back in sharing their astonishment. Many pointed to the impact this would have on every facet of the industry, from firewood producers to woodland owners on the cusp of doing a first thinning of a broadleaf site. 

In May's Forestry Journal, freelance forester Jamie McIntyre wrote: "I did belatedly track down the consultation, and read the analysis of responses.

"And here lies the final twist in the tale: the responses themselves called for a rural exemption to the ban – but this call was then ignored. Why?" 

At least it appears the government is finally taking notice of forestry's concerns.

Forestry Journal: Gillian Martin confirmed a review was taking place Gillian Martin confirmed a review was taking place

Speaking in Holyrood this week, Gillian Martin, the minister for climate action, said she had been "listening to the concerns raised" and she would look to adapt the legislation to address "issues of inflexibility". She stopped short of promising any major changes. 

A review is, by its very nature, only a review, and – without a firm commitment to reverse the 'ban' – the door remains open to the regulations remaining as they are. 

While that seems unlikely, it wouldn't be a surprise if many in the sector will remain wary until they have a definitive answer.