Productive: providing sustainable economic benefits from the land

Key commitments:

  • We aim to increase the contribution of the National Forest Estate to the economy of Scotland and its regions and recognise the potential of the estate to assist transition to a low carbon economy.

  • We aim to provide at least three million cubic metres of softwood timber every year on a sustainable basis.

  • We intend to manage at least a quarter of our expanding broadleaved woodlands to produce quality hardwoods and fuelwood.

  • We will market (timber/venison) in ways that encourage value adding and additional jobs in manufacturing and processing, recognising the benefits of contributing to local economic activity, especially in the more fragile rural areas.

  • We will use our work programmes to promote the development of the forestry and land management sectors.

  • We plan to increase agricultural use of the National Forest Estate where this is consistent with environmental objectives.

  • We aim to realise the renewable energy potential of the National Forest Estate whilst achieving a reasonable balance with other objectives.

  • We will work with partners to find new ways to harness our natural and cultural heritage and develop the potential for tourism on the estate.

  • We will support the Scottish Government’s woodland expansion policy.

Key priorities:

  • Designing our forests to produce a consistent supply of timber is a big challenge. Our forests tended to be planted in a short space of time. We have been restructuring these even-aged forests over the last 20 years to diversify their age structure. Nonetheless, our plans still show a bulge of crops ready for felling over the next 20 years, with a reduction thereafter. We continue work to smooth out this supply at around 3M square metres per year, whilst managing the risk of storm damage to mature crops.

  • We also want to ensure we are sustaining the estate’s timber producing capacity long into the future by planting an appropriate mix of trees. Balancing this need with environmental, landscape and other objectives is complex and we are developing our GIS tools to help us get the ‘right tree in the right place’.

  • Sustaining the estate’s timber stocks requires high quality restocking. This is becoming all the more challenging as we increase the use of alternatives to Sitka spruce which are more exacting in their silvicultural requirements and more vulnerable to deer damage. We are increasing our investment in management of deer impacts as resources allow.

  • Many of our forests are in remote locations and we have been working with the timber sector to improve Scotland’s timber transport infrastructure. As well as building dedicated timber haul routes, available for all to use, we are investing in coastal facilities to allow more timber transport by sea. This includes a bespoke timber prier on Mull, and barge ramps on Arran.

  • We want to make more of our timber resources, and have recently appointed a niche marketing officer to identify specialist timbers on the estate and to encourage value-adding by small-scale and artisan woodworkers.

  • The National Forest Estate is also important for food production – not least the venison from the 30,000 deer that are culled from the estate each year. We are looking at how to increase agricultural use of the estate, over and above the 22,000ha already in agriculture. As well as creating a network of starter farms, we will look at how reconfiguring open land and investing in fencing might allow more of our hill ground to be brought into active agricultural use, as well as the potential to use woodland for seasonal grazing and over-wintering of stock.

  • The 2GW target for renewable energy installed capacity on the estate by 2020 is challenging, especially as support regimes for renewables are tightened, and finding suitable locations becomes more difficult. With over 880MW now installed on the estate, we continue to work with a wide range of commercial developers and communities to explore where there is still potential for renewable energy schemes.

  • We want to make more of the tourism potential of the estate. With partners we have identified some key places like Glenmore in the Cairngorms, Leanachan in the Great Glen and Glentress in the Tweed Valley and developed masterplans. We are now exploring how these and other proposals might be taken forward and how inward investment might be attracted to generate more local jobs and value from our regionally significant outdoor activity centres.

  • We are working with professional economists to evaluate the economic contribution of the estate. This will help us to see where we can increase that contribution, and monitor how our contribution changes over time.