Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is encouraging the public to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Crown Estate proposals which ends on March 29th.
Comhairle Leader, Cllr Angus Campbell, said: “We would repeat our calls for the Scottish Government to devolve Crown Estate powers to local authorities, as set out in the recommendations of the Smith Commission.
“This principle was acknowledged in ‘Empowering Scotland’s Islands Communities’ back in June 2014 when Scottish Government committed to pass on 100% of net revenues in relation to Crown Estate assets in our areas.
“For us, however, the management of our local marine assets is as important as revenues, as our goal is to be in a position to work with our communities to utilise our natural resources to meet our joint priorities, develop our economy and stem the flow of young people from our areas.
“We are also calling on the Government to live up to the principles of The Lerwick Declaration, made in Shetland by the First Minister in July 2013, which affirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to subsidiarity and local decision making.
“Devolution of management of Crown Estate assets would go some way towards giving effect to the commitment to extend the powers of Islands Councils in the Programme for Government and supported so strongly in the Islands Bill consultation responses.
“The seabed around our islands is as much ours as the land on which we live. We have already seen examples of how community owned land across our islands has sustained and in some cases saved our fragile areas - this shows what can be done when control of assets is available to them.
“We believe - along with our neighbouring islands councils as part of the Our Islands Our Future initiative - that a pilot scheme should be implemented, with Crown Estate powers devolved to island local authorities on behalf of their communities and this could form a model for the full implementation of what the Smith Commission recommended.
“Across all parties we hear of the need to empower communities and have decision making closer to the people.
“Further devolution of Crown Estate fits these principles perfectly and indeed is a perfect signal as to how serious we are as a country to get on with that agenda.
“It is therefore essential for coastal communities that the passing down of these powers does not stop in Edinburgh and we look forward to working with Scottish Government on taking this forward.
“I would encourage all islanders to respond to the consultation and give a clear message that they want and expect these rights.”
The Consultation can be found on the Scottish Government website at: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/crown-estate-strategy-unit/long-term-management-of-the-crown-estate
The Comhairle Leader will also host a Facebook Q+A session on the Consultation in February. Further details will be released nearer the time.