Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the announcement of a Coastal Communities Fund, funded from Crown Estate revenues, as a step in the right direction.
Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell said:
“This is a very welcome beginning to reform of the Crown Estate and I am pleased that the UK Government has recognized the validity of the case the Comhairle has been making and that the principle of community benefit from Crown Estate profits has been accepted.
“However I do not believe that a challenge fund controlled by the Lottery is the way these funds should be administered. Local communities should control and disburse income that is generated in their waters, not have to go through a bidding process to get what should rightfully be theirs. I think a local Trust, representing the Western Isles community, is the way forward in terms of controlling and distributing coastal generated income. Nevertheless, this is a good beginning on which to build. Whilst welcoming these radical proposals, the Comhairle would wish to engage with the Minister and the UK Government for discussions on how they could be improved”.
Alasdair Allan, Western Isles MSP commented that more could be done: “The initial £1.85 million which is being allocated to the Highlands and Islands, whilst very welcome is modest and comes as a direct result of SNP pressure to see all revenues from the Crown Estate in Scotland devolved to Scottish communities. It also rather misses the point about the need for the Crown Estates revenue’s in their entirely to come under Scottish control.
“Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, still doesn’t seem able to appreciate that there is now a widespread demand in Scotland that legislative control of the Crown Estate should be devolved. The enormous revenues which the UK Government derives from properties as varied as the foreshore rented by harbours and fishfarms, and urban properties, such as Princes Street Gardens should finally be used for the benefits of communities in Scotland.
“The Treasury’s idea that the money should be disbursed by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the UK Government fails to realise that there is a demand for some long overdue democratic accountability over the Crown Estate in Scotland. Given that the Scotland Bill going through Westminster still only talks vaguely of Scotland being ‘consulted’ over how Crown Estate Commissioners, or some of them, are appointed by the UK Government, today’s news is unlikely to impress those of us calling for real reform.”