Scottish Affairs Committee accepts council's submission

THE Leader of Highland Council is delighted that the Scottish Affairs Committee reviewing the future of the Crown Estate Commissioners has unequivocally endorsed the submission of Highland and Islands local councils that Crown Estate powers should be devolved to local council and local community levels.
Councillor Michael Foxley said: ďThe report is perfect. It completely endorses our written submission. What needs to happen now is that the Secretary of State for Scotland must enter into urgent discussions with the First Minister to ensure that devolution of the Crown Estate responsibilities to a local level are implemented as quickly as possible. This is vital to the future wellbeing of coastline communities in our remote and island locations.Ē
In a report published today (Monday 19 March), the Scottish Affairs Committee says the Secretary of State for Scotland should announce the Governmentís commitment to devolve and decentralise the Crown Estate Commissionerís (CEC) marine and ancient rights and responsibilities in Scotland.
The evidence to the Committee identified major issues over the CECís 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 CECĎs 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 CECís involvements.
The evidence did not identify such problems with the CECís 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 CECís 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 CECís 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.