The Scottish Affairs Committee follow up report the Crown Estate in Scotland says that devolution to over-centralising Edinburgh is not enough.
In a report published today, Friday 7 March 2014, Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee says that the Crown Estate Commissioners (CECs) manage most of the foreshore and seabed in Scotland but are running it “for the benefit of the UK Treasury”, not for the benefit of the people of the Highlands and Islands.
Two years ago, the Committee recommended that these Crown property rights and interests, which are not the personal property of the Monarch but are held in trust for the nation, should be decentralised as far as possible to the level of the people living and working in these areas.
The Committee was very disappointed with the Government’s response to the report, which rejected the report’s main proposals and only agreed to some limited reforms, although it did set up a fund to help coastal communities. The Committee vowed to revisit the issue and new evidence taken in Scotland and England has reinforced the Committee’s view that decentralisation is essential if local communities are to benefit from the development of these national natural resources and assets.
The Committee’s previous report called for the CEC’s responsibilities over the administration and revenues of the ancient crown property rights and interests in Scotland to be ended. However, it warned that simply centralising these responsibilities in Edinburgh - instead of London – is not sufficient and would not address the fundamental problems identified.
The Committee has called for the CEC’s responsibilities for the seabed and the foreshore to be devolved, then decentralised as far as possible. Devolution to Holyrood should be conditional upon an agreement between the Secretary of State and the Scottish Government on how such a scheme of subsidiarity to local authority and local community levels should be implemented.
Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“We remain convinced that the transfer of these assets from an over-centralised London to an over-centralising Edinburgh would not be sufficient, and that local people and local authorities should be given primacy in determining how these assets should be developed and how financial benefits should be distributed.
“Only when the scale is too large to be dealt with locally should upward transfer be contemplated. We have seen and heard nothing which would deflect us from our previous view: that the proposals set out by the Highlands and Islands local authorities should be the clear basis on which to proceed.”