HC Deb 29 October 1957 vol 575 cc6-7
15. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will encourage the Forestry Commission to embark on large-scale afforestation in Sutherland and Caithness on land of no, or low, agricultural value, which is in abundance there and will yield an economic return in wood pulp if modern techniques are used.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord John Hope)

The Commission has already acquired 17,000 acres of plantable land in Caithness and Sutherland, which are in process of being planted. Negotiations are proceeding for the acquisition of a further 4,000 acres in Sutherland. As announced in the House on 14th July, 1955, the Commission has been authorised to embark on a new scheme of planting some of the poorer land in the crofting counties and to aim at planting 25,000–35,000 acres during the ensuring ten years. Of the area acquired in Caithness and Sutherland, 5,500 acres are for this special planting programme.

Sir D. Robertson

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are 1,750,000 acres in these two counties and that the reference to 17,000 acres being acquired and only 8,000 acres replanted indicates slow motion? Is it not time that something was done? Is my hon. Friend aware that his noble Friend the Minister of State held out afforestation as the hope of the Highlands? What a hope!

Lord John Hope

The answer to my hon. Friend lies in the figure which I have just given him of the programme of 25,000–35,000 acres within ten years. That is not slow motion.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the progress that is being made by the Forestry Commission? In regard to Sutherland and Caithness, is the right hon. Gentleman carrying out the plan for the other forest land by using it with a view to helping to protect the agricultural soil in the county and to help to redevelop the county as a living place for human beings?

Lord John Hope

The aim is certainly integration between agriculture and forestry, there as elsewhere—very much so.