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Scotland has new chief forester

By Tom Ramage

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Dr Helen McKay OBE has been appointed as the new chief forester for Scotland.

In her new role, she will provide technical and professional advice on forestry matters to Scottish Government Ministers.

Dr Helen McKay
Dr Helen McKay

A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Dr McKay has worked for Forest Research since 1988, with a seven-year spell in the Forestry Commission’s Corporate and Forestry Support and a short secondment to the then Forestry Commission Scotland.

She currently provides scientific and strategic leadership to the Centre for Sustainable Forestry and Climate Change in Forest Research.

Welcoming the appointment, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I’m very pleased that Helen has taken up this very important role. Her years of scientific expertise at the cutting edge of forestry research will be invaluable.

“Forestry has a very important role to play in our green recovery and we have many challenges ahead.

"The role will be called upon to keep high professional standards throughout the industry as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

In addition to providing technical advice to Ministers, the role includes acting as head of profession for public sector foresters and promoting professional standards in the wider sector.

Delighted with her appointment, Dr McKay added: “I am looking forward immensely to the work. Times are undoubtedly challenging because of Covid-19 in addition to climate change, pests and diseases as well as Brexit.

"On the other hand, such challenges can bring the sector together to further strengthen the forestry profession and demonstrate its value to Scotland.”

Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor, executive director of The Institute of Chartered Foresters said: “I’m delighted that Helen has been appointed to this role. She has been a real advocate of promoting professionalism throughout our sector and I look forward to working with her to showcase forestry as a modern profession to those seeking a green career."

Awarded an OBE in for her services to forest science and forestry, Dr McKay holds a BSc in Ecological Science and PhD from Edinburgh University and is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Environmentalists.

Dr McKay draws on her family connection with forestry in Scotland. Her maternal grandfather, Neil Hamilton, worked for the Forestry Commission after the WW1 in Glenachulish and her paternal grandfather, Archibald MacGilp, was the factor who helped to plant the mixed forest at Quinish, Mull.

The position is a requirement of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018. Dr McKay will take up her appointment on August1 and will spend approximately 1.5 days a week carrying out her duties.

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