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

In her new role, Dr McKay will provide technical and professional advice on forestry matters to Scottish Government ministers.

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.

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

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.”

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."

Dr McKay added: “I am looking forward immensely to working as chief forester for Scotland. 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.”

The position of chief forester for Scotland is a requirement of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018. Dr McKay will take up her appointment on 1st August this year and will spend approximately 1.5 days a week carrying out her duties as chief forester.

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