HC Deb 21 January 1970 vol 794 cc501-2
21. Mr. Brewis

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his policy regarding the planting of hill and upland farms in the south-west of Scotland by the Forestry Commission; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchan

The commissions hope to achieve a moderate increase in its planting programme in this area over the next few years. The possible effects on agriculture are kept under review by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, to which the Commission refers all its proposals for acquisition of land.

Mr. Brewis

Is it not a fact that the Commission has to get approval before it can plant hill or upland farms? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that a proper balance is kept between keeping a healthy hill sheep industry and planting by co-operative forestry groups?

Mr. Buchan

Yes. It is easier, as the hon. Gentleman will recognise, in the case of the Forestry Commission. On the private side, the National Farmers' Union is aware of the point. It has not been so concerned, as I know the hon. Gentleman has been, but he is correct in saying that we should watch the position to get the right kind of balance.

Mr. Stodart

Is the Minister convinced of the need for integrating forestry and farming? Is he aware of the difficulty which was reported when the West of Scotland college bought its experimental farm and found difficulty in interesting the Forestry Commission in planting there? Can he say whether the Forestry Commission is interested in planting comparatively small blocks of trees so that one could work towards a situation in which one had some trees on every farm?

Mr. Buchan

I recognise and accept the interest in this point. I know that the Forestry Commission has in mind this kind of matter. There is the problem of cost effectiveness in large-scale or small-scale planting. I will make sure that the point is borne in mind.