Set our forests free

John Blundell argues in The Sunday Telegraph that the Forestry Commission should be abolished and its acres turned into lottery prizes

There is a rich comedy going on behind bureaucratic screens. Two mighty quangos, the Forestry Commission and Scottish National Heritage, want to experiment with restoring the extinct beaver to Knapdale in Argyle.

The project has been meandering on for more than 10 years and £1m has been spent on consulting fees. Still we have no beaver.

This touches a nerve for me. As a graduate of the London School of Economics I feel the beaver is my personal mascot. Sidney and Beatrice Webb chose the beaver on the LSE's logo as they regarded it as symbolic of socialist virtues. It lives collectively, making stupendous dams and enhancing every location occupied.

But I see the beaver as emblematic of liberal virtues. Yes, they collaborate, but voluntarily. Beavers are self-employed entrepreneurial creatures, not socialist drones.

While the Forestry Commission and Scottish National Heritage flounder on, Britain now has six colonies of beaver evidently flourishing. I think this little story illuminates a greater truth about our biggest landowner.

The Forestry Commission, like the BBC, is one of our last few unreformed nationalised industries. It ploughs on, or rather plants on, immune to criticism or real scrutiny.

For 11 months of the year we are unaware of it.