South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed calls from forestry workers for the devolution of all forestry-related powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Woodlot Association (SWA) has highlighted in its submission to the Smith Commission that despite the original aim in 1997 for the Scottish Parliament to have complete control over forestry - the powers required to grow the industry remain with Westminster.
The SWA has therefore argued for the immediate transfer of key financial levers such as Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Business Property Relief to the Scottish Parliament.
Ms McAlpine said:
“Forestry is a very important industry across all rural Scottish communities.
“Dumfries and Galloway produces around 30% of Scotland’s annual timber harvest and is a major employer within the region with around 3000 jobs across all sectors. The management of woodland is also integral to the tourist industry.
“Despite this the Scottish Government is very limited in what it can do to help the sector grow at present.
“In order to create jobs in any sector of the economy we need the financial levers to do so. This is something the late Donald Dewar acknowledged in 1997 when he envisaged the Scottish Parliament having complete control over forestry.
“However, almost two decades later the real financial powers needed to develop this important industry in Scotland are still held at Westminster.”
The paper also warns that without these powers the Scottish Government’s ambitious tree planting target may be affected.
Ms McAlpine previously campaigned for the designation of a national tree for Scotland - throwing her support behind the campaign as a means of promoting the preservation of the environment and combating climate change.
The SNP MSP added:
“Preserving and planting woodland can help to combat climate change. The Scottish Government has a very ambitious target of planting 10’000 ha of new trees per year, and any measure that helps to support that objective must be good.”
“The SNP is committed to engaging fully with the Smith Commission on further devolution to obtain powers for a purpose which will allow the Scottish Government to create jobs and re-industrialise Scotland.
“Given the promises of substantial new powers made by the Unionist parties in the run up to the referendum I can see no good reason why forestry should not now be fully devolved to Holyrood.
“This will allow the Scottish Government to create an effective forestry tax policy and influence the distribution of forest land in favour of our rural communities.”