A senior minister in the UK's Government's Brexit team has had discussions with Confor on the major issues affecting the forestry and timber sector during a visit to a sawmill.
Robin Walker, Minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, was given a tour of the BSW mill at Fort William.
Stuart Goodall, Confor's Chief Executive, welcomed the opportunity to discuss the UK’s EU exit with the minister face-to-face at such a crucial time - and to stress the importance of the forestry and wood processing sector, which employs almost 80,000 people across the UK and delivers £2 billion in economic value every year.
Mr Goodall presented Mr Walker with copies of Confor's report, A Thriving Forestry and Timber Sector in a Post-Brexit World.
Minister for Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker, said:
"The UK Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that we have the strongest possible rural economy after Brexit and forestry will be a key part of the discussions as to how we achieve that.
"That's why I was delighted to visit the BSW mill and to hear from Confor about their views on the upcoming negotiations and vision for the future of forestry in the UK."
Mr Goodall said:
"I was able to discuss Confor's emerging thinking on the positive role that forestry can play in a post-Brexit world.
"As the UK leaves the Common Agricultural Policy, there will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design rural policy and funding support that meets local needs. The CAP has shut forestry out, but we now have an opportunity to unlock jobs and investment, reduce the impact of climate change and flooding, and provide an array of benefits for wildlife, recreation and leisure. Forestry and wood processing’s enormous contribution to the rural areas of the UK means that it must play a central role in future Government thinking about how policy and funding structures will look after Brexit."
Hamish Macleod, Head of Public Affairs at BSW Timber, added:
"As a rural employer, BSW Timber has a critical role to play in maintaining local wealth and employment. This is a timely opportunity to highlight the success of our business in Scotland and across the UK, and the many challenges we face on a day-to-day basis.
“We have placed great emphasis in the last few years on working downstream with the UK construction sector to grow markets for UK timber, and we must now ensure that the business confidence is underpinned by continued commitment by UK Government in the forestry and wood processing sector. This gives us the confidence to continue to invest in our mills, creating more jobs and wealth for the communities which we serve.”
The visit was part of a series of fact-finding visits being made by Mr Walker ahead of the detailed negotiations which will follow the triggering of Article 50.
In the main heading Mr Walker is pictured, right, with (from left): Hamish Macleod, Head of Public Affairs at BSW Timber; Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor: promoting forestry and wood; and Andy Rogers, Mill at BSW Fort William.