Opposition MSPs have united to block plans to bring forestry under the direct control of the Scottish Government.
While Holyrood approved landmark legislation devolving control of the sector – which is worth almost £1 billion a year to Scotland – they also backed Labour amendments requiring ministers to set up a single agency or two agencies to take over the work of the Forestry Commission.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said while this was not the approach he favoured he accepted that “Parliament has legislated for ministers to establish two Scottish Government executive agencies to deliver their functions”.
Conservative MSP Peter Chapman had stated: “We did not want to see the Scottish Government take all of these functions into central government.”
He added that the amendments made to the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill would ensure that “all agencies remain outwith government and at arms length”.
Meanwhile Labour’s Colin Smyth said it had been “vital” to change the Bill to “address the concerns of key stakeholders who fear that taking powers currently with the Forestry Commission and passing them to a government department was simply more centralisation”.