Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Experts Back Moves to Change Control of Crown Estate


Commenting on calls from a range of experts to the Parliamentary Committee examining the Scotland Bill to devolve control of the Crown Estate from its unelected board of Commissioners to the Scottish Parliament, SNP candidate for the new Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency Stewart Stevenson MSP said it showed that the Scotland Bill did not go far enough in meeting the ambitions of Scotland.

Mr Stevenson also highlighted that making the Crown Estates answerable to the Scottish Parliament would help communities like Crovie, currently fighting the decision by the Crown Estate to let the historic village pier crumble into the sea.

Figures from academia, community organisations, a think tank, politics and broadcasting have all united to tell the committee that the proposals in the Scotland Bill do not offer enough and that the bill should remove control of the Crown Estate from the present Commissioners and pass it to the people of Scotland. Among those calling for the Bill to go further are former Labour energy minister Brian Wilson, broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, and prominent land reform campaigner Andy Wightman.

The SNP confirmed earlier this month that the party will move to ensure full devolution of the Crown Estate Commission through amendments to the UK Government's Scotland Bill and will call on opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament to join with the SNP in calling on the present UK government to transfer full responsibility and revenues to Scotland.

Devolving the Crown Estate Commission - in particular its responsibilities and administration for Scotland's shores would see the Scottish people able to benefit directly from Scotland's offshore renewable energy boom. It would also allow the shores and seabed to be managed in the interests of Scotland's coastal communities rather than the Treasury's bank account.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on securing community benefit from offshore renewable developments. Full devolution of the crown estate revenues from leasing the seabed could form a vital part of an energy fund for investing in Scotland's future.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

"These are significant voices backing a profound shift in power and responsibility that has popular support in Scotland.
"It shows that Scotland knows the Scotland bill, like devolution and like our nation can be better.

"Locally, we have no better example of what remote control by the Crown Estate means than the appalling inaction of that body in relation to Crovie Pier. The Crown Estate Commissioners are seemingly content to let this historic structure simply crumble into the sea.

"The SNP will pursue through the Scotland Bill the full devolution of the Crown Estate, its land, shores, rights, responsibilities and revenues in Scotland.

"Crown Estate properties would then be Scotland's properties and our foreshores and seabed could be managed in the interests of the Scottish people, not the London market and the Treasury bank account.

"We are now in the beginnings of an offshore energy boom that requires effective management of our seas and our shores, support for our ports and our harbours and the leasing of our seabed in a way that brings long term benefit to the people and economy of Scotland.”

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford added:

"All the Scotland Bill offers is consultation over the appointment of a Commissioner for the Crown Estate. That is an appalling offer that insults our communities, our industries and our potential. Coastal and islands communities, our renewable energy industry, our harbours and our fishing fleet know that we can do better for Scotland.

"The SNP will put forward full devolution through the Scottish Parliament and if Holyrood and UK Ministers do not back devolution SNP MPs will put forward amendments in the House of Commons to bring Scotland's seas into Scottish control."
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