Westminster’s Crown Estate plans not enough say Scottish government

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by G.A.Ponsonby
 
The SNP has described plans to hand over only half the marine revenues generated by Scottish coastline to Scottish communities as a “fudge” that “falls short” of what Scotland needs and wants.
 
The nationalists gave a critical welcome to moves by the Treasury to allow coastal communities to benefit from 50% of crown estate marine revenues but insisted that all revenues from the Crown Estate in Scotland should be devolved to Scottish communities.

There was further anger after it emerged that the Scottish government had not been consulted on the move by Danny Alexander the Lib Dem Treasury Chief who announced that the money would by-pass Holyrood and be administered by the Big Lottery Fund.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil questioned the Treasury’s decision to give communities only half of the revenues they should be entitled to and to make communities bid for funds that are already rightfully theirs.  Mr MacNeil has called on the UK Government to clarify whether it is actual crown estate revenues, lottery funding or alternative UK funding.

He said:

“[The] announcement is the result of SNP pressure for Crown Estate revenues to be devolved and decades of community campaigning.  However, this coalition fudge falls far short of what communities need and want.

“Scotland and our communities should have full control of the Crown Estate and the Crown Estate revenues, with full responsibility transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr MacNeil claimed that the announcement did not make it clear whether communities were getting “Crown Estate revenue, some form of lottery funding or other Treasury funds.”

He added:
“Danny Alexander must clarify as soon as possible if this really is Crown Estate money and when the UK Government will move to devolve full control and revenues from the Crown Estate to Scotland. He needs to prove he is a man that can deliver for the Highlands and Islands, rather than just being the Tories’ front man in Scotland.

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross said that Highland communities have more issues with the Crown Estate than simply money.

“George Osborne’s plan for a community fund for coastal communities falls far short of the aspirations of coastal communities and his Lib Dem partners in the Scottish Parliament that the Crown Estate and its revenues should be devolved.

“It also misses the opportunities provided by the Crown Estate Review Group report to Highlands and Islands local authorities in 2006 for control of the Crown Estate activities to be devolved.

“The future control of the Crown Estate Commission (CEC) is a live political issue that the UK Government is trying to quash with this announcement.  I represent many harbours and offshore wind, tidal and wave project areas who will welcome this funding but who want more control over the Crown Estate’s activities as well as revenues.

“It’s not just about community benefit funds, it’s also about what the CEC does and how it does it.”

Labour’s Tom Greatrex MP welcomed the announcement saying he hoped to see the fund grow.  The MP for Hamilton West and Rutherglen claimed that Scottish communities did not want to see the money being administered by the Scottish government and suggested that funds might not reach those communities in need should that have happened.

He added: “As well as charities, businesses and social enterprises it is important that local councils are eligible to apply to the fund too.”

The Crown Estate is managed by an independent organisation, headed by a Board, and any profits are paid every year 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.

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.