Committee warns of ‘major issues’ in Crown Estate Management

Scottish Affairs Committee says the only way to address problems is to end CEC’s responsibility in key areas, and devolve these to local level.

In a report published today,(Monday),the Scottish Affairs Committee says the Secretary of State for Scotland should announce the Government’s commitment to devolve and decentralise the Crown Estate Commissioner’s (CEC) marine and ancient rights and responsibilities in Scotland.

The findings have been widely welcomed. Lorne Macleod a Director of Community Land Scotland and who gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee said:

“Today is a significant moment toward achieving the radical reform of the Crown Estate we have been arguing for. We are delighted that the Committee has recognised the role community land owners can play in managing their local marine resources in the future, as part of wider devolution to Scotland and to local authorities.

“We urge the Secretary of State for Scotland to now make arrangements for the devolution of the control of the Crown Estate to Scotland and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to help flesh out their proposals for further devolution of control to a more local.”

The Crown Estate (CEC) is a statutory corporation that manages various Crown property, rights and interests in Scotland. It acts as the owner of those assets, although they are actually owned and held in trust for Scotland by the UK monarch.

The evidence to the Committee identified major issues over the CEC’s management of its responsibilities, particularly in relation to the seabed and the foreshore, including:

- lack of accountability and transparency,

- lack of communication and consultation with local communities,

- the inappropriateness of the CEC‘s statutory remit for its responsibilities in the marine environment,

- cash leakage from local economies and other adverse impacts arising from the way the CEC operates,

- limited benefits in Scotland from the CEC’s involvements.

The evidence did not identify such problems with the CEC’s management of its urban and rural estate.

The Committee concludes that the best way in which to address these fundamental issues is to end the CEC’s responsibilities for the administration and revenues of the ancient Crown property, rights and interests in Scotland. However, simply handing these responsibilities to Holyrood would not address the fundamental problems identified: the Committee says devolution of these powers should be based on the CEC’s further decentralisation to local authority and local community levels to the maximum extent possible. Devolution to Holyrood should be conditional upon an agreement between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Government as to how this will be implemented.