Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Is the government's bark worse than its bite? The forest sell-off examined...

I don't understand.

Like many I was mildly annoyed in a British sort of way about the proposed sell-off of the forests, so jumped on the lightly-irritated bandwagon of the slightly disgruntled and signed 38 Degrees' petition.

You may think I'm labouring the moderateness of my disapproval, but there is a reason. I'm not quite sure why I'm supposed to be angry, as neither side of this dispute seems to make a coherent case.

On the surface, headlines like 'Evil Government sells our forests to foreign paedophiles' are shocking, but no-one has really explained why. The government claims that if the forests are sold off (which is not yet final, apparently), they would still have the same ecological and rambling laws they do at the moment, meaning it would make no obvious difference to average Brit. This is partly because the average Brit probably never goes with in 100 acres of a wood. But it also means it would make no difference to the average forest-using Brit. Dogging is already illegal anyway. Now I don't know how true the argument that usage of forests won't be affected is, but I think it's fair to say that the forests won't be felled by angry orcs leaving a barren wasteland after the sell-off. The vast majority of Britain's forests are already privately owned and no-one seems that bothered or restricted from doing things they want to do by this fact. But the question is, if all forest-owners are permitted to do is manage and maintain their forest in accordance with government regulation, under the watchful eye of the forestry commission, why would anyone buy a forest? Obviously, the government's pawns are giving it the whole 'big society' spiel about communities getting together to buy and run a forest. And, to be fair, I think this could happen, right after the revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the withering of the state and the establishment of an anarcho-communist society. Then the communes may well try  to collectively buy and run a forest. But frankly, the government has somewhat  distanced itself from orthodox Marxism, and until communism happens, I can't see neighbours who won't even take a parcel for each other, or refrain from disposing of each others' pets, deciding to buy a forest for no apparent reason. Which leads neatly onto my next point...

The government's own estimations indicate that they would lose money from the sell-off. This could be something to do with the fact that clearly, if what they say is true, no-one will want to buy a forest. If they will lose money, and it makes no difference to the practical running of things, why on earth would you bother to sell off the forests? The government's answer is that the forestry commission is not good at running forests. Their gift-shops are understaffed and the height of their trees cannot be compared to those in the private sector.

So on one hand we have the problems with the sell-off:

  • No-one wants to buy a forest
  • It won't make any money
  • Waffle about the private sector being better at running forests (eh?)
And on the other hand there doesn't seem much point in criticising it:
  • Something like 90% of the forests are already privately owned: no problemo
  • It won't make any difference to the general public if the same regulations are in force
If anyone can elaborate on either side of the argument for me it would be greatly appreciated.

Tnx xx

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