Pressure Increases on Crown Estate after Scottish Assets Sold Off

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Rural Affairs and the Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has called on Crown Estate Commissioners to consult with the Scottish Government before making any further sales of assets in Scotland.

In a letter to the Crown Estate’s Scottish Commissioner, Mr Lochhead stated his concern that the organisation had recently sold commercial properties in Edinburgh and is able to sell assets without regard for the views of Scottish Ministers.

Currently all the income generated from Crown Estate in Scotland flows directly to the UK Treasury.  The SNP believes that the current situation is unacceptable and that Scotland should be benefitting directly from her resources, especially given what promises to be an offshore renewable bonanza worth £billions.  First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday called for those areas currently controlled by the unelected body to be brought under the control of the Scottish people to ensure Scotland does not miss out on the fortune to be earned from her shores.

Mr Lochhead recently met with the Secretary of State for Scotland to discuss the future administration of the Crown Estate and to push for a review. The Crown Estate Commissioners manage the seabed out to 12 miles as well as a number of large rural estates in Scotland. They also hold commercial property assets in Edinburgh.

Mr Lochhead said:

“I am concerned to see significant assets under the responsibility of the Crown Estate Commissioners being sold off without consultation with the Scottish Government. Until the inter-Government discussions about the administration of the Crown Estate in Scotland have concluded, I believe it would be appropriate for Scottish Ministers to be consulted and have regard to their views before selling off assets.

“The Crown Estate is a significant landowner and rural landlord in Scotland and we enjoy a close and productive working relationship with them. However, it is still an anomaly that – post-devolution – the Crown Estate Commissioners are not accountable to Scotland’s communities.

“I have met with Highlands and Islands local authorities and know they believe Scotland is missing out on revenue and income generated from our seabed. Importantly, the Crown Estate is the only public body that currently stands to accrue a direct benefit from offshore development and our massive offshore renewable potential.

“Later this year I will meet with the Crown Estate to discuss the administration of the organisation in Scotland and we will continue to consult and develop proposals for greater transparency and accountability.

“We are working closely and very successfully with the Crown Estate to develop Scotland’s clean green potential. We have a joint desire to see Scotland become a powerhouse for offshore renewable energy but, even with a productive day-to-day relationship, the legislative and constitutional parameters must change.”

A UK Treasury Select Committee report in March 2010 recommended that a concordat or memorandum of understanding between the Scottish Government and the Crown Estate is needed to consolidate the working relationship and highlighted the need for Crown Estate Commissioners to greatly strengthen their management within Scotland.

The 2009 Calman Report acknowledged evidence from local authorities and others calling for the Crown Estate to be devolved to enable Crown Estate Commissioners to be made more accountable and to help ensure that Scottish assets are managed in Scotland’s interest.