Penalties for felling without a licence

Felling without a licence is an offence. Everyone involved in the felling of trees - the owner, agent, timber merchant or contractor - must ensure that a licence has been issued before any felling is carried out, unless any of the exemptions apply.

If there is no licence or other valid permission in place, or if the wrong trees are felled, anyone involved can be prosecuted. Contact the local Forestry Commission Scotland conservancy office to report any suspected unlicenced felling.

The Land Information Search (LIS) shows whether a felling licence has been obtained for the area being felled.

Penalties

  • On conviction, a fine of up to £2,500, or twice the value of the trees, whichever is the higher
  • When an owner or tenant is convicted of an illegal felling, Forestry Commission Scotland can serve a Restocking Notice to restock the land concerned, or any other land as may be agreed
  • The owner or tenant must also maintain the replacement trees to acceptable standards for up to 10 years
  • If the conditions of a Felling Licence or a Restocking Notice are not complied with, Forestry Commission Scotland may issue an Enforcement Notice demanding you take action to meet the conditions
  • It is an offence not to obey an Enforcement Notice and can mean a possible fine of up to £5,000

Ensure that a valid felling licence has been granted. Contact Forestry Commission Scotland if there is any doubt about whether a licence is required.

The booklet Tree Felling - Getting Permission (PDF 1.8Mb) provides full details of how to go about applying for a licence. See also the applying for a licence page in this section.

2015 investigation into unauthorised tree felling at Dyke and Forsinain Forests, near Forsinard, Caithness

We recently investigated unauthorised felling at Forsinain and Dyke Forests in Caithness – both owned by RSPB Scotland.

RSPB Scotland contracted forestry company UPM Tilhill to carry out felling at Dyke on their behalf. A local contractor undertook the felling work at Forsinain forest. Due to the scale of the unauthorised felling (totalling 4,150m3), we submitted a report to the Procurator Fiscal. They determine if taking a prosecution forward is in the public interest. In this case, the Procurator Fiscal decided prosecution was unwarranted.

A summary of the investigation, letters to RSPB Scotland, UPM Tillhill and the local contractor involved are published below.

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