Management of Scotland’s valuable offshore and foreshore assets should be devolved, according to a House of Commons report published today (19 March).
The outcome of the Westminster Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee’s enquiry vindicates the Scottish Government’s longstanding campaign to secure devolution of the Crown Estates assets to Scotland for the benefit of its people and its communities.
A key element of the report is a recommendation that includes a call for the Secretary of State for Scotland to announce the UK Government’s commitment to devolve the Crown Estate’s marine and ancient rights and responsibilities in Scotland and associated arrangements for further decentralisation of responsibilities to local authority and local community levels.
Welcoming the report, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead said: “This welcome and significant report from a House of Commons committee piles the pressure on the UK Government to do the right thing and devolve the Crown Estate to Scotland as soon as possible. The case for the devolving and democratising the Crown Estate is unassailable.
“Up to now the Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has stubbornly refused to accept the case for making the Crown Estate truly accountable to the people of Scotland and the communities most affected by its activities.
“It has taken three enquiries for Westminster to eventually come to the point that people in Scotland have understood for years – the democratic control of resources is always preferable to anonymous, unaccountable management.
“It was a huge disappointment that instead of supporting Scotland on this issue, the Scottish Secretary resisted this for so long and didn’t include it in Scotland Bill and I call on him to now act swiftly to take this forward for the benefit of Scotland’s 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 and other assets controlled by an unelected body, with no requirement to consider the will of local communities or consult the Scottish Government.
“I am delighted that the Committee have adopted our suggested, two-stage, model. Our progressive plans – which have also been backed by the Scottish Parliament – would see revenues from Crown Estate invested directly back in to local communities and the Scottish Government is clear that this is absolutely the right approach – the communities most affected are the ones which should benefit.”
The Scottish Government’s campaign has called for the Crown Estate to be accountable to the Scottish Parliament and its revenues to benefit Scotland and its communities directly.
During its inquiry to the Scotland Bill, the Scottish Affairs Committee received a significant amount of evidence, which identified a number of concerns and issues in relation to the administration of the Crown Estate in Scotland. On 17 February 2011 the Committee announced that it would conduct an inquiry in to the Crown Estate in Scotland.
The House of Commons report recommends that the Secretary of State for Scotland should announce the UK Government’s commitment to devolve the Crown Estate’s marine and ancient rights and responsibilities in Scotland, conditional on a clear commitment to, and a detailed agreement on, the further decentralisation to the maximum extent possible of the Crown Estate’s responsibilities to local authority and local community levels, and that he make the necessary legislative provision to this effect. (Paragraph 182)
There have been three reviews that have considered the role of the Crown Estate in Scotland -The Treasury Select Committee, The Calman Commission as well as the Scottish Affairs Committee’s inquiry. Two Scotland Bill Committees of the Scottish Parliament have also considered this issue, in the context of the Bill proposals on the CEC.
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