SCOTLAND’S chief forester has told of her “extremely interesting and rewarding” time in the role as her current term comes to an end.  

Dr Helen McKay has held the position since 2020 but the term finishes in the summer when her maximum four-year spell comes to an end.

During her tenure, Dr McKay has worked to promote forestry in the country’s schools, with a focus on training foresters for the future. She has also liaised with a number of government ministers to make the case for the industry.

"I have found the chief forester role extremely interesting and rewarding,” Dr McKay, who was awarded an OBE in 2020 for services to science and forestry, said. “It has taken me well outside my comfort zone to work with people from many different professions as we tackle the present shortage of staff with the skills and experience needed to deliver modern forestry in Scotland. 

“This includes raising awareness of forestry as a career and the range of job opportunities as well as ensuring that the right education and training are available.” 

A fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF), Dr McKay has also worked for Forest Research since 1988, with a seven-year spell in the Forestry Commission’s Corporate and Forestry Support and a short secondment to the then Forestry Commission Scotland. 

Forestry Journal: Helen McKay has worked closely with schools during her time as chief forester Helen McKay has worked closely with schools during her time as chief forester (Image: SF)

Elsewhere, she is a trustee to the Scottish Forestry Trust, and has been a figurehead for the industry since being appointed chief forester. 

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Jonathan Taylor, head of Scottish Forestry’s executive office said: “Dr Helen McKay has worked incredibly hard in the role and her passion for forestry has certainly come through, especially in promoting the need for skills training and the development of the foresters for the future.” 

Applications for chief forester are now being considered. Potential candidates have until February 11 to apply. Previous holders of the role are free to apply again. 


An online event will be held on January 31 for those looking for more information. You can sign up here.