MSPs have passed the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill at stage 3, while approving a number of amendmants against the arguments of the minister in charge.

The bill makes provision for the management of forestry in Scotland, which for the first time is fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament. One of the main issues dividing the Parliament was whether it should come nder the direct control of Scottish ministers. 

Opposition members argued for a separate agency similar to the Forestry Commission, in order to preserve the knowledge and experrtise of existing management and protect it from changeable Government policy, and the amendment in name of Labour spokeswoman Claudia Beamish was carried by 63 votes to 61.

After the bill was passed Mr Ewing said: "The Scottish Government is focused on ensuring that there is a bright future for forestry in Scotland.

"I am extremely proud to have been the Cabinet Secretary to lead this landmark legislation – the first ever bill on forestry in the devolved era – and crucially, the legislation fully devolves forestry to Scotland.

"It is disappointing that we will now not be able to forge ahead with our planned arrangements but I will absolutely respect and deliver the will of Parliament. In working out how to deliver what Parliament wants, I will do all I can to provide as much pace, clarity and certainty to ensure that the staff working currently in Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland can move swiftly and seamlessly to the new administrative arrangements. They are key to the future of forestry –our ambitions will not be delivered without their skills and expertise and I want them to feel valued and respected in the process ahead."

He added: "The Act will give Scotland the modern framework needed to support more tree planting, sustain existing woodlands and create new ones, while also maintaining our forests. We have a sector worth £1 billion to our economy, supporting over 25,000 jobs, and providing huge social and recreational opportunities for all our population. Our forests, woodlands and trees form a key part of our countryside – they are natural assets I am determined to nurture and grow for current and future generations."

Click here to view the stage 3 debate.