Widening of compulsory purchase powers for new forestry bill rejected by MSPs

The substantial widening of compulsory purchase powers was rejected by MSPs
The substantial widening of compulsory purchase powers was rejected by MSPs

The substantial widening of compulsory purchase powers which hoped to be included in new forestry legislation has been rejected by MSPs in the Scottish parliament.

The removal of a compulsory purchase power to "further sustainable development" from new forestry legislation has been welcomed by landowner organisation Scottish Land & Estates.

The Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament this week, completing the devolution of forestry in Scotland.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the bill’s "modern approach" to forestry development will enable the Scottish Government to better support the £1 billion industry and 25,000 jobs within the sector and to create growth in the rural economy.

However, following an amendment by Conservative MSP Edward Mountain - supported by all opposition parties - the substantial widening of compulsory purchase powers was rejected by MSPs.

Compulsory purchase powers existed in previous legislation which would allow the Forestry Commission to purchase land for the purpose of sustainable forest management.

Despite this power never having been used, the Scottish Government wanted to keep the existing mechanism and also widen it substantially to include the power of purchase for land to further sustainable development.

However, the widening of CPOs was voted down by MSPs.

'Consistently opposed'

Sarah-Jane Laing, Executive Director of Scottish Land & Estates, said the organisation has "consistently opposed" the inclusion of a "wide-ranging CPO power" in the legislation.

“Not least bearing in mind the fact that the existing powers have never knowingly been used,” Ms Laing said.

“Whilst the Scottish Government said that the power would be rarely used, we believe insufficient justification was provided as to why this power was needed in the first place.

“We believe that there was also a significant difference between the power which the Scottish Government perceived as being in the Bill and the power which was actually conferred by the wording of the legislation.”

Scottish Land & Estates said it was also pleased to see amendments from Green MSP Andy Wightman, leading to the publication of information on ownership and management of forestry, passed by the parliament.

Ms Laing continued: “We were also pleased to see Andy Wightman’s amendment passed to increase transparency around the ownership and management of forestry.

“This is firmly in keeping with our own objectives expressed in our Landowners’ Commitment and as we move towards increased openness through the completion of the Land Register, it is only correct that other legislation that deals with land management, such as this forestry bill, addresses these same principles.”