Socialists want you to be terrified when you think of forests. In the absence of a policy of their own (I searched for three hours but couldn’t find any on the web) the best the Labour Party and their acolytes have come up with to attack the Government’s plans on forests is … Scary Tories Lurking Behind Trees!
All over the country socialists are busy frightening the population witless with stories of how the Tories will chop down our forests, will block access, will kill the mammals, and build houses on them. Never mind that most of these activities are already illegal under existing law. Never mind that most of the not-yet illegal activities of that nature will be prohibited by the terms of the long leases the Government will impose. Why let the truth stand in the way of a Scary Tory Story?
On the Labour Party Website we can join the campaign to tell the Government that This Land is Our Land. The terrified browser learns that “Ministers will have the power to sell off 85% of our forests – with no protection for public access or biodiversity”. Never mind that 82% of our forests are in fact owned by the private sector already, and that the Government has absolutely no plans with those. Never mind that the last Labour government introduced the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) which guarantees access to private and public land. Never mind that biodiversity is mentioned 22 times in the consultation document.
Mary Creagh MP, Shadow Environment Secretary, sent letters to Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs in whose constituencies the state forests are located. They should be truly frightened (of themselves? Or their scary colleagues?) because, according to her, “the Government’s recent consultation paper has failed to provide reassurances about the scale of the sell-off or protections for public access”. Has she actually read the paper? In fact, leafing through its 64 pages, most of the text seems to be about preserving public benefit.
According to The Guardian, the Tories’ alarming plans have even aroused big beast Dame Fiona Reynolds, head of the National Trust (Not everyone calls her a Big Beast. The Daily Mail once called her a Tony Crony). Dame Fiona states that “the future of these important national assets will be decided in a matter of weeks”. Not so. In fact her membership might be pleased to hear that it is estimated that the disposal will take ten years because the Government wants to make sure the public benefit is guaranteed. But she goes on: “…as yet, [there is] no explanation as to how [access, conservation and amenity value] will be ensured”. Actually…there is. 64 pages of it.
Trade union Unite believes Scary Tories will cost rural jobs. 3,240, to be precise (in fact the Forestry Commission only employ 1,500). We will not only sell the woods, kill the creepy-crawlies, build on it, and block access. Once denationalised, we also plan on firing everybody! Unite wants to spook the population with the prospect that the companies, charities, and community organisations which will lease and run the forests plan on letting them go to waste. Forests as a state employment scheme? Maybe there are dinosaurs lurking in the woods, too.