Crown Estate in deep water in Scotland
Lythe Mead rocks on the Mull of Galloway - photo: Colin McDonald
SCOTLAND: The Westminster Scottish Affairs committee has published its report on the operation of the Crown Estate in Scotland, writes Mike Balmforth. And the it makes for sober reading.
The report 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 evidence to the committee identified major issues over the CEC's management of its responsibilities, particularly in relation to the seabed and the foreshore. The report cited lack of accountability and transparency, lack of communication and consultation with local communities.
It went on to add 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 CEC operates, and limited benefits in Scotland from the CEC's involvements. It did not identify such problems with the CEC's management of its urban and rural estate.
This decision comes as a surprise to the leisure marine industry, which has enjoyed a constructive relationship with the CEC for many years. If, as is recommended, the responsibility for CEC's marine assets is devolved to local communities (ie; local authorities) there is a distinct danger that funds will not be as readily available for leisure marine infrastructure developments as they are at present.
According to the Select Committee, CEC does not invest all the proceeds of asset sales or all its revenue in Scotland, which they think it should. The recommendation calls for the CEC to be devolved and decentralised.
Taken literally, this would mean a division of the CEC to form Crown Estates Scotland, a body that could then follow Scottish government requirements for reinvestment in Scotland.
Entrusting local authorities with the responsibility not only of disbursing the funds, but of administering and collecting them as well, is likely to be inefficient, and is very unlikely to result in enhanced investment in seabed and foreshore developments.
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