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Forestry Grant Scheme update – Spring 2019

28 March 2019

Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) secured until the end of 2020.

The deadline for guaranteed FGS contract payments has been extended to the end of December 2020, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.  Funding for contracts approved by this date will be provided by the UK Treasury to replace EU co-financing needed by the Scottish Government.

There is good availability of funds for all Woodland Creation schemes and the 2020 claim year is now open for applications.  In a change since the previous issue’s update, more funding has become available for schemes in 2019 within the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) target area. Funding for Woodland Improvement Grants (WIG) is becoming limited for 2019, with Woodlands in and Around Towns (WIAT) funding only available for 2020.  Sustainable Management of Forests (SMF) grants are limited for 2019 but there is currently good availability for 2020.

The future of Scotland’s forestry policy and support post-Brexit

Two initiatives to improve the FGS and provide more stability and simplicity for the forestry and farming sectors were announced by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing in January.  The initiatives will focus on streamlining the FGS process and encouraging small-scale landowners to take up forestry grant opportunities.  Recognising forestry as a key contributor to the rural economy and long-term investment, Scottish Government taskforces will work with stakeholder experts to develop improvements to the scheme.

The current FGS will remain open until March 2024, with only minor changes to improve the scheme occurring between 2020 and 2024.  The longer term future of Scottish grant funding for forestry will be shaped by responses to the Scottish Government June 2018 Consultation on ‘Stability and Simplicity – Proposals for a Rural Funding Transition’, and working with the forestry sector.

As of 1st April 2019 forestry will be fully devolved, with responsibilities and staff transferring to two new Scottish Government agencies.  Scottish Forestry replaces Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) as the regulatory and support-giving body, while Forestry and Land Scotland replaces Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) in managing the national forest estate.

Changes to felling regulation

The Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018 will come into force on 1st April 2019, which will contain some changes to the regulation of felling.  The terminology will change, with felling licences becoming felling permissions.  The application process will be very similar to the existing process, retaining the look and feel of the forms.  Guidance for applicants will be released prior to 1st April and we will highlight the main changes in the Autumn 2019 issue.  However, two key changes to exemptions are worth noting now: clearance of windblown trees will now requires felling permission; felling, of any volume, within Caledonian Pinewoods and small native woodlands will require felling permission.

Expansion of Highland Native Woodland Target Area

The Highland Native Woodland Target area is being expanded, meaning more locations will be eligible for higher rates of grant payment.  All land identified in The Highland Council’s new Forest and Woodland strategy as preferred, potential or potential with sensitivities will be included in the updated target area.  The changes are expected to come into effect by April 2019.

You can find full details of the Forestry Grant Scheme on the Rural Payments webpage here.

This article has been published in the Spring 2019 edition of the Farm Woodland News.  Download a copy to access all articles.  Subscribe to receive newly published editions via email by using the form here.

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