President's message - Spring 2019
RSFS President, James Hepburne Scott reflects on 2018 and looks forward to an exciting programme for 2019
The start of a new year is a good time to reflect on the changes I have seen in the Society over the last two years.
We have established the new board of 9 members comprising the Society office bearers and chairs of our five regions. This board has settled down well and I am grateful to the members for their support.
I regret that individual membership has continued to decline slowly but we have been successful in recruiting new corporate members. We are delighted that some of the key players in forestry in Scotland see the value of RSFS membership and have been pleased to welcome so many of their staff contributing enthusiastically to our field days.
Again, I appeal to all members to recruit another. If you have not yet made any effort in this respect please do try. The greatest attraction, I believe, is our privileged visits to some glorious places with knowledgeable guides. An individual subscription is less than a high street coffee once a fortnight.
Thus, with modest subscription increases and good cost control, we have stabilised our financial position. We are investing in a new membership IT system which will allow us to communicate with members more efficiently and enable joining and subscribing on-line. A new fundraising committee aims to broaden our funding horizon. We have commenced an appeal to members for legacies and donations.
Our communications committee, chaired by Wilma Harper, has launched the new website (work still in progress) and sharpened our use of social media. The publication of 3 excellent Journals is by far our largest cost.
The Monitor Woods initiative, inspired by Nander Robertson, is developing well. I am pleased to welcome Simon Stuart as the Project Manager. We are grateful to Forestry Commission Scotland for their financial support.
One of the Monitor Woods will be our own forest at Cashel which has acquired new life and vigour thanks to the huge commitment Syd House as chairman and Nander Robertson. We welcome to the board Simon Stuart and Jane Begg. Alan Low and Richard Toleman have retired from the board having served since its inception in 1996. My thanks to them for their hard work over the years. There is a great programme of events at Cashel in 2019 (see your green card). A land management plan has been agreed with the National Park Authority and our forest management plan has been submitted.
This year's re-named Annual Study Tour will be based in Dunoon (12-16 May) and will take us to the Isle of Bute. The Society AGM will be held at Cashel on the last day when the new centennial footpath and the all abilities path will be opened. I hope to see many of you there.
In 2018 the Society played a leading role in persuading MSPs to keep the Forestry Commission as an agency rather than a division within the Scottish Government. We also responded to the consultation on the new Scotland's Forestry Strategy. My thanks to members who contributed.
Following this consultation Fergus Ewing has recently announced in parliament action to streamline the process for forestry grant payments and a review of the grants scheme to encourage more small scale landowners to take up grants. The measures are designed to provide more stability and simplicity for the forestry and farming sectors at this time of great uncertainty. I am sure we would all subscribe to that.
2019 is a significant year for forestry, marking the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Forestry Act which established the Forestry Commission. RSFS has set up a committee chaired by Graham Hamilton and they are developing a series of events round the country during the year. I was delighted to be at the first of these, a very successful Burns Supper. We recognised the contribution of George Stewart, a former Forestry Commissioner, to forestry in Scotland by making him an Honorary Vice President of the Society. (He is almost, but not quite, as old as the Forestry Commission.) His recollections in the autumn 2018 edition of Scottish Forestry made fascinating reading.
So having started by looking back, I want to end by looking forward. There is a real energy in the Society and our programme of events for 2019 will showcase some of the diversity of forestry in Scotland, how this has changed over the last 100 years and how we will all have to respond to the challenges of the future.