Westminster axe threatens 150 forestry jobs in Lothian

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UK GOVERNMENT cuts are threatening more than 150 jobs at the Forestry Commission in Edinburgh and its research centre at Roslin, unions claimed today.

And even more jobs in the Capital could be at risk if Westminster passes new legislation designed to pave the way for ministers to abolish a raft of public bodies and sell off forestry land south of the Border.

Around 250 staff are employed at the Forestry Commission's UK headquarters at Silvan House in Corstorphine Road and another 90 at the Forest Research centre in Roslin, Midlothian. Union negotiator Allan MacKenzie said up to half the jobs were at risk because they were funded by the Westminster government, which is cutting 12 million from the Forestry Commission's budget.

And he said there was a further threat from the Public Bodies Bill, currently going through Westminster, which would allow the abolition of the Forestry Commission and the sale of any or all of England's public forestry estate.

Mr MacKenzie said the formal consultation on job losses would only begin next month. He said: "Many staff are unaware of what is coming. People don't know who is at risk.

"It's all part of the Government's drive to reduce the number of people it employs, regardless of efficiency or anything else. The Forestry Commission will not be able to deliver in the future what it has been capable of delivering in the past."

The threat of selling off forestry land has provoked protests south of the border, amid concerns that forests could be used for commercial logging, or cleared to build golf courses or holiday complexes. Since forestry is a devolved responsibility, falling under the remit of the Scottish Government, little attention has been given to the issue here.

Lothians Labour MSP George Foulkes said: "Everyone assumes this has no effect in Scotland, but that is not the case.

"Because the Corstorphine office is a UK headquarters, many of them are working on aspects relating to England so their jobs are under threat."

Silvan House also accommodates around 50 staff working for the Forestry Commission Scotland who are not directly affected.

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission GB said it was facing a reduction of 25 per cent in its spending and acknowledged jobs could go.

He said: "Reducing the number of staff is a possibility, but we don't know what the end result will be."

A Forestry Commission Scotland spokesman said ministers had made clear there would be no sell-off of forestry land here and there were no plans for a review of FCS.