We are taking a new strategic approach to the disposal and acquisition of land as a result of:-
- The New Woodland Investment Programme (NWIP) coming to a close on 1 May 2021;
- The award Scottish Ministers of at least £30m of funding over a 5 year period to extend and enhance our land holding in response to climate change;
- Opportunities for us to deliver carbon offsetting projects.
- A new targeted approach for the management of our assets, following the recommendations of the NWIP review.
Our Acquisition Strategy sets out the foundations for our approach, which seeks to be dynamic and optimise the potential for us to deliver value for money whilst maximising public benefits, in line with the Scottish Public Finance Manual.
The strategy will be governed by the Strategic Acquisition Board.
- sets out the Key Principles of this Strategy and how they align with Policy.
- describes how acquisitions will be funded, how they will be delivered and the anticipated outcomes.
- outlines information for Communities.
- provides up-to-date figures on the area and value of land sold and purchased.
Six principles have been developed to support this Strategy and to align with the National Performance Framework, Programme for Government 2020 – 2021, Scotland’s Forest Strategy 2019-2029 and our own Corporate Plan 2022-2025, these being:-
- Promote a flexible ‘invest to save’ approach to managing Scotland’s national forests and land: We will be looking to proactively identify strategic operational and/or capital investments which provide significant long-term financial benefits and savings to the organisation, and delivery of its objectives. To fund such investments, and in the absence of access to alternative capital, we may sell a part of the managed portfolio – targeting assets that are underperforming and/or are liabilities to us. We will target acquisitions which are strategically significant and where there are clear value-added opportunities to ensure the best outcomes for Scotland.
- Demonstrate our leadership within Government on climate action: FLS is a future focused organisation which is pioneering how Government bodies can take a lead role in responding to the climate change emergency through creating more resilient forests, developing successful partnerships with the private sector on carbon offsetting initiatives and consequently supporting Scottish Government Net Zero objectives.
- Deliver tree-planting and other landscape/environmental projects: We will acquire land for new woodland to assist with meeting the Scottish Government target of 18,000 ha of new woodland by 2030. We will also consider acquisitions that can deliver Natural Capital benefits such as peatland restoration, flood alleviation and bring other environmental gains, especially where the delivery of such projects can benefit from other funding sources.
- Support rural jobs and green recovery from COVID-19: Where there is market failure and through targeted acquisitions, we will seek to deliver green infrastructure initiatives and nature-based solutions, including on identified vacant and derelict land sites, to have a positive impact on the landscape and the economy.
- Pursue alternative funding opportunities: We will take a proactive and targeted approach to developing an acquisition pipeline that will underpin investment via alternative funding sources including carbon offsetting partnerships.
- Innovation & Entrepreneurship: We will proactively consider potential ‘blue sky’ strategic opportunities where our scale, long-term planning horizon and diverse skill-set makes it uniquely placed to make creative contributions to Scottish Government targets and the long-term benefits of Scotland’s national forests and land.
Acquisitions will have two distinct funding steams.
Low Carbon Investment Fund (LCIF)
This will principally be funded from at least £30m allocated by Scottish Ministers to Forestry and Land Scotland to be invested during the period 2021-2026 for enhancing the national forest and land in response to the climate emergency. This fund may be enhanced by income from carbon offsetting partnerships and from other Scottish Government funding such as Peatland Restoration funds. The Fund will be utilised for the acquisition, afforestation and peatland restoration of new land which will contribute towards Scotland’s net-zero greenhouse gas emission ambitions.
Strategic Acquisition Fund (SAF)
The Strategic Acquisition Fund will be funded from the following sources:
- Residual funds of from NWIP circa £9m (as allocated at 1 May 2021);
- Remaining sites identified for disposal under NWIP;
- Disposals as part of the Asset Management approach;
- The proceeds from disposals under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS);
- Other sources of funding from Scottish Government/Partnership working:
- Strategic Acquisition fund will contain £9m NWIP Residual Funds from commencement day
- Remaining NWIP sites for disposal will transfer from NWIP to be approved disposals under Strategic Acquisition Fund
- Rationalisation disposals will now form part of the asset management approach
- Target income for the Strategic Acquisition Fund for FY 21/22 from all disposals is £5.5m
- Low Carbon Investment Fund will contain £30m to be invested during 2021-2026
- Strategically Beneficial Acquisitions may offer wider strategic benefits to the estate such as, but not limited to, acquisitions which improve access, reduce the long term costs of timber haulage, rationalise boundaries, improve management opportunities and facilitate partnership working. This may include land that is already planted.
Our aims during the five years of the Strategy are to make acquisitions that:-
- Contribute to Scotland’s aspirations of 21% woodland cover by 2032;
- Contribute to Scotland’s target to become carbon neutral by 2040;
- Contribute to Scotland’s aspirations of restoring 250,000 ha of peatland by 2030;
- Contribute to continued re-greening of former coalfield and other derelict sites by aspiring to create 1,000 Net ha of new woodland during the lifetime of this strategy;
- Fit strategically with our current landholding, Scotland's national forests and land;
- Contribute to the ongoing development of the resilience of Scotland's national forests and land by creating appropriately diverse woodland types which support delivery of a broad range of ecosystem services;
- Contribute to future efficiencies in the management of Scotland's national forests and land through an ‘invest to save’ approach.
In order to deliver the Acquisition Strategy and to complement the existing national forests and land, we will have a preference for acquisitions with the following characteristics:
- Land where the proportion which can be utilised to meet our objectives is likely to be high (generally more than 60%) – taking into account site and policy constraints;
- Ex-coalfield and ex-industrial (‘vacant and derelict’) land which has or can be cost- effectively remediated to have the capability to establish woodlands and which carries a low level of future liabilities;
- For woodland creation sites typically larger sites with a minimum net plantable area of more than 40 ha (there will however be exceptions to this where, for instance, strategic alignment or Woods In and Around Towns (WIAT) opportunities exist);
- Taking account of land quality in the locality, lower grade agricultural land will be preferred;
- Land which is contiguous to or close to the existing national forests and Land, or which connects likeminded ownerships to provide wider habitat network, landscape or ecosystem-scale benefits;
- Land with no buildings or houses is preferred;
- Land where access is suitable for establishment and management of the envisaged land use:
The above aims indicate that we will be focusing acquisitions that facilitate the following outcomes:
Conifer and productive broadleaf woodlands
- Productive woodlands which will assist us to sequester carbon and produce timber to help meet market demands.
- Future land use practices may be:-
- Forests designed to facilitate rapid carbon sequestration and/or timber production;
- Forests with a diverse structure and/or composition where management practices allow longer term carbon sequestration and/or produce a high value and/or niche timber products
- Native woodlands have the ability to deliver long term carbon capture and ecosystem services including timber, biodiversity and water management across substantial parts of the estate;
- These could be created through planting or natural colonisation;
- Where acquisitions are adjacent to existing native woodlands they will assist us to expand, enhance and buffer these woodlands enhancing Natural Capital, including biodiversity and carbon capture opportunities.
Woodland for “Woodlands In and Around Towns”
- Creation of urban woodlands, within one kilometre of settlements with a population of 2000+ people, will tackle the barriers people face to regularly visiting and benefitting from green space.
- Restoration of drained and degraded peatlands will help restore the original form and function of peatland habitats and in turn capture carbon.
- Land and other assets that can offer wider strategic benefits to the Estate such as, but not limited to, acquisitions which improve and reduce the long term costs of timber haulage, rationalise boundaries, improve management opportunities and facilitate partnership working. This may include land that is already planted.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (the Act) introduced the right for communities to request to purchase, lease, or rights to manage, use or occupy public land, including that managed by Forestry and Land Scotland. We developed the Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) to meet the requirements of the Act and build on the National Forest Land Scheme which Forestry Commission Scotland ran from 2005 to 2016
Under the Act the Scottish Government regulations on public asset transfer came into force on 23 January 2017 and CATS opened on the same date.
Read further information on CATS, including guidance setting out the process for submitting an Asset Transfer Request.
Effects of the Strategy
In operating the Acquisition Strategy, we will seek to deliver against Scottish Government and Corporate objective. This will introduce some gradual changes in the nature of the estate:
- Due to the direct investment of Scottish Government funding we expect to grow the estate in both area and value.
While it is anticipated that disposals will be required in order to maintain the Strategic Acquisition Fund at a viable level any disposals will be identified via an asset management approach rather than a programme of disposals.
- Due to the focus on the Scottish Governments response to climate change the nature of our acquisitions will move to land uses that contribute to climate change mitigation.
- The SAF is design to target acquisitions that bring efficiencies to the estate and therefore may include acquisitions other than bare land for planting.
- While the market for properties with woodland creation potential is currently very strong, opportunities to acquire suitable land in the market place may be limited. Forestry and Land Scotland may therefore be unable to balance, in any one year, the value of income from the LCIF and SAF and capital re-invested but will seek to do so over several years.
Table 1 provides a summary of the area and value of land bought and sold since 2005 (PDF).
Table 2 provides details, since the re-positioning programme began in 2005/06, of individual acquisitions (PDF). These figures have been extracted from centrally held files. Figures have been rounded.
Table 3 provides details, since the re-positioning programme began in 2005/06, of individual sales (PDF). These figures have been extracted from centrally held files. Figures have been rounded.