Michael Moore accused of betrayal over Crown Estate comments

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By Martin Kelly 
 
Lib Dem MP Michael Moore has been challenged over remarks he made to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee after he revealed that control of the Crown Estate would not be devolved to Scotland.

By Martin Kelly 
 
Lib Dem MP Michael Moore has been challenged over remarks he made to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee after he revealed that control of the Crown Estate would not be devolved to Scotland.
 
Mr Moore made the comments despite previously pledging a commitment to listen to the recommendations of the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee before the UK Government reached a decision on whether to devolve control of the lucrative body.

The Lib Dem MP who, as Secretary of State, is supposed to represent the interests of Scotland in the coalition cabinet insisted that as far as he is concerned, control over Scotland’s foreshore “stays in UK hands”.

Mr Moore’s unscheduled announcement led to accusations that he had shown a lack of respect to the Scottish Parliament.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, a member of the Holyrood Scotland Bill Committee immediately called on Mr Moore to withdraw his comments.

Ms McAlpine said: “Devolving the management, administration and revenues of the Crown Estate is one of the Scottish Government’s proposals for the Scotland Bill and something the Lib Dems are supposed to believe in.

“For Michael Moore to ignore the overwhelming evidence in favour of devolving the Crown Estate is the latest in a long line of Lib Dem betrayals.

“For decades people across Scotland – including Lib Dems – have called for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people to have responsibility for the management, administration and revenues of the Crown Estate in Scotland.

“Instead of waiting to hear the views of this Parliament Michael Moore has jumped the gun without even waiting for the Scottish Parliament to deliver its verdict.”

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.

Figures show that 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.

The comments by Michael Moore are at odds with the wishes of the party in Scotland including former leader Tavish Scott and former Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace.

Last summer Mr Scott said: “The UK Government could give Shetland’s harbours, the aquaculture industry and local marinas a real boost by putting the Crown Estate under local control. …  The days of conflict … would be put behind us, and Shetland’s maritime future would be all the more secure, if control of the seabed was wrestled away from the Crown Estate.  The proposed changes to the Scotland Act … give a great opportunity to make this welcome change.”

Other Lib Dems who have stated publicly they are in favour of control passing to Scotland include MSP Liam McArthur, MP Alastair Carmichael and senior Lib Dem Cllr Michael Foxley.

Speaking last September, Alastair Carmichael MP said: “Ultimately I would like to see control of the seabed removed from the Crown Estate and given to the communities who rely on it”.

Last November MSP Liam McArthur said: “The Scotland Bill provides an opportunity to help coastal communities and our aquaculture and marine renewable energy industries.  The UK Government should review the Crown Estate’s role in Scotland and look at using the Bill to devolve powers and control over the seabed.”

Others calling for Scottish control include those working with the Crown Estate, running Scotland’s ports and harbours, the communities affected by the crown estate and people in our offshore renewables industry.