The Chairman of the Crown Estate (CE) has claimed that Scotland faces being unable to meet ambitious plans for 100% renewable generated electricity by 2020 unless it has access to full UK Crown Estate assets.
The claims were contained in the CE’s Scotland report for 2011 in which the London based body defended its record in Scotland.
Crown Estate manages rural estates, retail premises, mineral and salmon fishing rights as well as around half the foreshore and almost all the Scottish seabed. Currently all profits from Scotland go straight to the UK Treasury in London.
Speaking in the report, CE Chairman Sir Stuart Hampson argued that the Scottish government’s goal of achieving 100 per cent of Scotland’s electrical usage through renewables by 2020 would depend on “billions of pounds” of investment and said “ambitions alone won’t bring the outcomes Scotland needs.”
Sir Stuart claimed that CE financial assets from places like London’s Regent Street allowed a “strong cash flow” and that this had been acknowledged by the Calman commission.
The CE Chairman also implied that Scotland lacked the technical expertise needed to manage the complex projects and that the Crown Estate’s pool of UK wide talent was needed in order to minimise the likelihood of investors losing confidence and switching investment to other countries.
He said: “The decision makers who are crucial to the investment in all these schemes are looking at the opportunities worldwide. They have a choice. There are many countries in the world equally keen to attract funds for new infrastructure projects.”
Sir Stuart said the Crown Estate would “… minimise the risks that investors see when they’re making up their minds.”
Despite acknowledging the “wider political debate about The Crown Estate in Scotland” he insisted that “it would not be appropriate for me to comment on matters which are the responsibility of the UK Parliament.”
However the comments will be seen by some as interference in the political debate currently engulfing the role the body plays in the administration of Scottish based assets. The Scottish government has demanded that control of Scottish assets be devolved and that all funds raised in Scotland should be used for the benefit of Scotland’s local communities.
The UK coalition government has already responded to SNP pressure and announced that half the Scottish cash will be given to a lottery group to be distributed amongst coastal communities; the concession was described by the Scottish government as “paltry”.
The value of Scottish property assets increased by 13 per cent last year to £207.1 million. This included a 42 per cent increase in the value of the marine estate, largely due to offshore renewables.
Sir Stuart’s comments are likely to ramp up the tensions over the role of the Crown Estate in Scotland.
Yesterday the Scottish government repeated its demand that all revenue generated from Crown Estate assets should be invested directly in local communities.
The SNP wants devolution of the Crown Estate to be included in the Scotland Bill, currently awaiting its second reading in the House of Lords. The party has said control over Crown assets would allow more money to be invested within Scotland and would allow the country to make the most of offshore renewable- energy opportunities.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our progressive plans, backed by the Scottish Parliament, would see revenues from the Crown Estate invested directly back into local communities.
“Scotland is blessed with fantastic offshore-energy potential. It is completely contrary to the spirit of self-government to have Scotland’s seabed and almost half the foreshore controlled by an unelected body, with no requirement to consider the will of local communities or consult the Scottish Government.”
Last year an Offshore Valuation Study found Scottish developments have the potential to attract £60 billion of investment and to create 20,000 jobs by the end of the decade. First Minister Alex Salmond has claimed that renewables can re-industrialise Scotland.
The Crown Estate Scotland report can be viewed here.
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