Key commitments:

  • We want to encourage local people to get involved with using and managing local woodlands that form part of the National Forest Estate so we will actively engage with local communities and be open to work in partnership.

  • We will continue to use the National Forest Estate as a place for volunteering and gaining employment skills.

  • We are committed to creating more uniquely special places across the National Forest Estate and to delivering benefits to an increasingly diverse range of Scotland’s people.

  • We recognise the value of the National Forest Estate as a place for research and development of best practice.

Key priorities:

  • We recently invited a group of independent stakeholders to conduct a health check of our work with communities. In many ways we were found to be at the leading edge of good practice, but we recognise we need to widen our approach to involve the whole organisation as communities seek to engage with us on an ever wider range of topics. We have established a relationship management programme to help us rise to this challenge and will be developing new training resources with input from our community stakeholders. Finding the staff resource to increase our engagement will remain a challenge.

  • We will be shaping our approach to community and rural development in a way best fitted to fulfil the aspirations of the Community Empowerment Bill and the Land Reform Bill.

  • Our community work includes providing opportunities for development of community renewables on the estate, which has great potential to empower local communities and provide long-term resource flows to support other community–led projects.

  • We are also building relationships with the farming community as we consult on the best land use balance across the estate. We have not always been viewed positively by the farming community given the history of large-scale forestry expansion, and we are challenging our own assumptions and presumptions to ensure we can work with farmers as we seek to integrate farming and forestry on the estate.

  • Time-bound sources of external funding have enabled us to develop a significant skills programme. The forestry skills element has involved offering up to 30 apprenticeships per year, as well as ten internships. Through the wider skills element we have worked with training provides to offer opportunities to hundreds of unemployed young people to gain practical skills and workplace experience. As the original European and domestic funding sources come to a close, we are working with funders to explore continuation opportunities.

  • Historically our recreation offering has appealed to quite a narrow sector of society. We are looking at how we extend our engagement and develop our offering to appeal to a more diverse range of Scotland’s people. We have recently published ten District Strategic Plans, each of which lays out an engagement strategy appropriate to the local population. The Scottish Lowlands are a particular focus where we run access programmes in collaboration with a range of ethnic and cultural groups. We are working to provide a consistent national offering for those with mobility challenges, both in relation to information available to plan a visit and the on-site experience itself.