Forest research - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Alba Trees Plc and Forest Carbon Ltd (Forest 25)

This response is based on the assumption that public spending on forestry research in UK will reduce.

The key questions are therefore:

—  What to reduce?

—  Where should the remainder be carried out?

—  How should the remainder be funded?

Forestry in UK today faces more demands and challenges today than ever before.

The most significant of these include:

—  Climate change.

—  Pests, diseases, tree health.

—  Reduction of available chemical measures.

—  Meeting increased timber demand whilst balancing social and environmental demands.

—  Labour and skills shortage.

—  Regulation.

Of these, the first four are necessary areas for long-term research work.

A simple numerical analysis of the Forest Research project titles, broadly grouped, in recent years shows the following split.

1.Forest management, silviculture, tree improvement, timber production 54
2.Social, health and well-being 51
3.Bio-diversity, ecology, soils, hydrology 28
4.Pests, diseases, tree health, invasive species 23
5.Amenity, urban, brown-field, landscape 17
6.Climate change16

We would suggest that much of the work in category 2 could now be reduced and re-allocated, perhaps to PhD students.

We believe that much of the work in categories 4 and 6 could be shared with other European countries for improved efficiency.

We suggest that much of the work in category 1 is near-market and therefore the private sector might reasonably be expected to pay a contribution for specific projects. These projects could be identified through dialogue with ConFor. It would be essential, but not necessarily easy, to devise a simple and efficient levy collection mechanism.

We conclude with a warning note, in recognition of the fact that central, rather than devolved, government funds the largest share of Forest Research, particularly the excellent work done at NRS. This would be imperilled should Scottish independence become reality.

James Hepburne Scott
Alba Trees Plc and Forest Carbon Ltd

7 June 2011

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Prepared 17 October 2011