forests for all

Forestry technology advances,
the industry begins to focus on community


AUTOMATION ACCELERATES: new technology in the 1980s

The 1980s saw rapid advances in the technology and equipment used in the forestry sector. Many processes were automated, from felling to clearing, chipping, transplanting and hauling. Several of the photographs above show new forest machinery being tested and implemented. Any forester working in the 1980s would have had to work hard to stay ahead of the technological curve.

In other areas, the Forestry Commission in Scotland was slower to react to the fast pace of change. In the 1980s, the Radio Branch in Dunkeld was still the nerve centre of the UK’s second-biggest radio network. Cellular phones were still a decade away.

Policy was evolving too, with the early 1980s seeing the establishment of new, locally-owned ‘community woodlands’ in towns and cities, and the establishment of the Scottish Forestry Trust. The focus was now on who used Scotland’s forests, and what they did there, as much as on commercial forestry.

The allotments at Cow Hill in Fort William are a great example of a project co-managed by FLS and the local community.

The allotments at Cow Hill in Fort William are a great example of a project co-managed by FLS and the local community.

The Branching Out programme is one of many community projects run by Scottish Forestry today.

the birth of community woodlands

Community woodlands began to be defined in the mid 1980s, with many local organisations coming together to purchase, take care of, or inherit ownership of woodlands and forests in and around big cities and smaller suburban towns.

Although the Community Woodlands Association was not officially set up until 2003, community woodlands have been part of Scotland’s culture ever since the 1980s. The opportunity for communities, crofters and other interests to get involved in managing and owning their own forests continues to be part of Forestry and Land Scotland’s day-to-day work through the Community Asset Transfer Scheme, set up in 2017 (formerly known as the National Forest Land Scheme).

CATS allows communities to make use of, or buy, any piece of land which FLS looks after. A network of community groups are informed of any plans to sell their nearby forests, giving them the chance to act first.

The modern scheme has its roots in the 2003 Land Reform Act, which gave communities the right to buy their local land.

Community woodlands are home to all sorts of valuable projects, including Scottish Forestry’s ‘Branching Out’ programme, aimed at people with mental health difficulties, and the community allotments at Cow Hill in Fort William.

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1983: scottish forestry trust established

The Scottish Forestry Trust was established as a charity to provide grants for research, education and training in the field of forestry.

Since then, they have dispensed £2.7 million of funding to over 190 projects, from enabling postgraduate studies, to initiatives exploring sustainable forestry practices, policy direction, and public education and awareness-raising.