South of Scotland Forestry Forum meeting minutes, 25 March 2011

Location: South Scotland Conservancy, Moffat Road, Dumfries

Present

Neil Cowan
Joan Mitchell
Ann Fraser
Martin Craig
Roddy Fairley
Ian Johnston
Rob Soutar
Iain Laidlaw
Alasdair Hendry (pm)
David Rogers (pm)
Richard Howe (pm)
Jamie Smith
Pat Hunter Blair (Chairman)
Christine Leslie (Secretary)

1. Welcome and Apologies

Apologies received from the following: Chris Badenoch, Jamie Ribbens, Donald McPhillimy, Bobby McGhee and Ian Cornforth.

PHB informed everyone that Ian Cornforth is our new member to the Forum who has taken over from John Todd.

2. Minutes and Action Points from Last Meeting

SRDP – next phase beyond 2013 – there will be the opportunity to consult on this once draft EU Regulations are published. Amend: Business Development –Galloway Biosphere – approval date 24 Feb 2011.

The minutes were agreed as a true record of the previous meeting.

3. Conservators Update

Review of FC

– B MacIntosh gave a recent update to FC staff across Scotland highlighting a number of proposed changes to the FC within the 3 countries as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

FC - England looking at a reduction in the number of both FE Districts and Conservancies. There will be a 27% reduction of staff over the next 4 years which it is hoped will be achieved through natural wastage, retirement etc. however, some redundancies may also be necessary.

FE England’s Asset Sales Programme has been suspended for 2011/12 until Ministers have seen responses to the consultation on the Public Forest Estate. An independent panel has been set up to look at the direction, policy and future (attach link) of FC England.

FC Wales - there will be a 7% cut in budget and currently looking at options aimed at streamlining government agencies. This may including merging departments.

FC Scotland - an 11% reduction is targeted this year. Scottish Government grant support will reduce as part of the CSR, however, EU co-financing will result in an increase in SRDP grant for certain types of forestry activities.

FC GB - Policy and Research will also be required to make cuts and this will have an impact on staff at Silvan House. Whilst there are several fields of work within Research that will be required to make cuts the department involved in the research of Pests and Diseases will not have its budget cut reflecting the current challenges the industry faces with pests and diseases.

SG restructure of directorates - the results of this will be deferred until after local elections.

SRDP

– Ministerial approval has been given for the February RPAC. £450m has been recommended for approval over the last two rounds. High value cases are being scrutinised to confirm they are offering value for money. There are approximately 20 cases which are being looked at using the Scottish Enterprise criteria to identify ‘value for money’ on these cases.

– The largest area of funding is ‘Management of Hedgerows’ approx £23m, as a result this option within RP is currently suspended.

– The next RPAC is for Axis 2 projects only and will be held in September 2011 to allow contracts to be approved before the year end.

– Ongoing Approval Process for the RP forestry options: Woodland Creation; Woodland Improvement Grant; Sustainable Management of Forests thresholds have been lifted. Therefore the Conservator has delegated authority to approve high value cases WC proposals.

– In order to stimulate productive woodland creation a 10% increase in rates is now available within areas highlighted within a Woodland Strategy as being ‘preferred’ or ‘potential’ for woodland creation.

– From 1 May ‘Natura and SSSI’ proposals that come under RP09 within SRDP will now be able to follow a similar ongoing process as forestry, with a £50k threshold.

Woodland Strategy – D&G

JS is part of a group of 10 authors who have submitted comment to the above and is currently being brought together. The Council aims to present a first draft to the Advisory Group in the Spring before releasing for public consultation. Current Council timetable indicates the Strategy to be published September 2012.

Local Development Plan

Currently out for consultation until 30 May. (attach link) to allow forum to submit comments. JS to id any forestry issues to the group to follow up, will discuss with Neil Langhorn. There is a plan to hold two drop in sessions/workshops.

ACTION: JS to feedback to forum members any forestry issues identified on the consultation document.

Consultation on Direct Code on Practice on Non Native and Invasive Non Native Species. Due for completion by 9 June.

4. Land Use Strategy Update

JS gave a presentation on behalf of Jo Ellis on the Land use Strategy

“strategic framework brings together policies and proposals on sustainable land use”

This is the first LUS across the world. There are three elements to the strategy:
- Economic – land base business.
- Environment – stewardship of Scottish natural resource
- Community – urban and rural community, conservation etc

Eco system approach: report has been printed and issued, biosphere used as an example. If anyone has any other examples pass to Roddy.

ACTION: Pass on examples to Roddy.

5. Implementation of Scottish Forestry Strategy 2011-12

JS confirmed that all of the objectives within the 2010-11 Implementation Strategy have now been achieved.

The Forum then reviewed the seven themes going forward for this year. In particular the forum held some discussion on the following themes:

Promoting the value of woodland to the agricultural sector.

Shortage of new entrants into the forestry sector which is currently supported by an ageing work force.

Environment Quality - currently working well, looking for other areas – asked forum to take this away with them and consider new action points to take forward, all ideas welcome.

An example is in the Borders with ‘Tweed Forum’ – ecosystem on water flood management/wetland through research and demonstration – possible further development with partnership working.

Biodiversity – Expansion of ashwoods and wet woods. Data has been collated but not formatted into a useful decision making tool.

It is clear that all the themes are interconnected in some way. Suggest that we let things run and use it to cement everything together.

ACTION – JS to populate the Implementation Strategy 2011-13 to reflect the areas of work the forum would like to promote.

6. Renewable Heating Incentive - Presentation by D Rogers.

7. Update on the revisions of the UK Forestry Standard and Guidelines and UKWAS – presentation by Richard Howe

8. AOB

Date of Next meeting – due to clash of other meetings JS requested that the meeting on 26 May be cancelled.

Revised Date – Tuesday 21 June. The meeting will be held in the west with an afternoon site visit. Ideas to JS.

ACTION: CL to circulate new dates to all members.