20 March 2018

S5M-11111 Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-11111, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill at stage 3.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I agree with Peter Chapman’s highlighting of the opportunities that exist for forestry and agriculture—perhaps I should say arboriculture and agriculture—to work together. Arboriculture includes vines, and I look forward to there being vines in Scotland in the future. There is an underexploited opportunity there.

Alex Rowley highlighted the issue of climate change, and I absolutely agree with him on the importance of forestry to managing and mitigating the effects of climate change.

I have a small point to make about unused powers. We have had discussion about compulsory purchase powers that have never been used. However, the fact that they have not been used is not to say that they have no effect. The very existence of powers forces people over whom they might be exercised to come to conclusions.

I will give an example of an unused power that touches on the life of us here. Forging the great seal of Scotland is high treason. It has been in the Scots law canon for more than 500 years and, as far as I can establish, it has never been used. Nevertheless, it is of such value that it is part of our legal system. That demonstrates that unused powers are not powers without value.

As I mentioned in the stage 1 debate, when the Great Michael was built in 1513, it weighed 1,000 tons and was the biggest warship in the world. All the forests of Fife were cleared to build it, and wood had to be imported from elsewhere. A couple of years later, the English decided that they wanted a bigger vessel, so they built an even bigger ship and the Great Michael—impressive achievement though it was—was never used for any particularly useful purpose.

In the time that remains to me, I would like to draw on personal experience. My wife reported to me that, earlier this month, two men came to the door. We live on 4 acres of land, and we are surrounded on three sides by about 70 to 80 acres of forest. One of the men was the new owner of the forestry and the other was from the Forestry Commission, and they had come to make my wife aware that some of that forestry was to be harvested over the next few years and to discuss the plans. My wife felt that it was an excellent intervention to be talked through what was going to happen and to be given sufficient notice—three years’ notice, in fact—to allow us to put up some protective trees that might start to grow in that period that would continue to give the shelter that the forest provides.

The Forestry Commission is one of our crowning glories, and I hope that the bill as enacted will support its future development and success.


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