Scottish National Investment Bank (Forestry Sector Jobs)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 27 April 2022.

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Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government how many jobs in the forestry sector have been created as a result of the Scottish National Investment Bank. (S6O-01002)

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

That information is neither collected nor held by the Scottish Government. It is a matter for the Scottish National Investment Bank, which makes independent decisions about which investments to make and what information to collect, monitor and publish about those investments.

In August 2021, the bank committed £50 million to the Gresham House forestry fund. That investment is under 12 months old and has therefore not been subject to the bank’s annual reporting cycle. However, it was estimated that it could sustain more than 200 existing jobs and create 500 more in Scotland.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

The SNIB is to plough millions into forestry. However, there are issues over tree species and jobs: as the bank itself admits, 54 per cent of the trees will be non-native. We know that major flaws are associated with large-scale Sitka spruce plantations, especially with carbon sequestration and greenwashing. It is estimated that only 200 jobs will be created, which is not an impressive return for £50 million—which I believe has gone to Guernsey—and it is hardly a resounding success story for protecting rural communities.

Why was such a deal signed off through SNIB when it has such a poor return for the environment, net zero progress, job creation and rural communities?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

As I thought might be obvious to the member, the bank invests on a commercial basis, alongside private money. It makes independent investment decisions, which do not involve the Scottish ministers. I am content, however, that that particular investment rises to a number of the objectives of the Scottish Government, including on carbon sequestration, commercial planting, support for biodiversity and the creation of good, green jobs in our rural communities.

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

My understanding is that investment such as tree planting is generally a long-term endeavour and that the bank has only recently been set up. Rachael Hamilton and the Scottish Tories should be aware that Scotland has a very positive story to tell regarding forestry. It is worth nearly £1 billion per year in gross value added, and it employs more than 25,000 people. [Interruption.] I ask the minister how the forestry initiatives to be carried out under the auspices of the SNIB will help to complement the Scottish Government’s tree-planting goals and support our drive towards net zero?

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

I could hardly hear the question, Presiding Officer. However, the commitment to the forestry fund has been set up focusing on wide-scale new planting, with an estimated carbon sequestration potential of a staggering 1.2 million tonnes of carbon. As I have said, there are also commitments to biodiversity support and to sustainable forest management, both of which are in line with Scottish Government objectives.

For our part, Scottish Forestry will set out research this year on the different sequestration potential of the planting of different types of woodlands, as well as on the jobs that flow from those kinds of projects.