Crown Estate transfer does not go far enough, says Scottish Government

13 July 2012

The Crown Estate has announced it will transfer the rights to fish wild oysters and mussels, along with land at West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh to Scottish organisations. They are making changes to their operations in Scotland as part of a change in approach to property management. The role of the Scottish Commissioner, who will chair a newly established Scottish Management Board and take a lead role across all activities in Scotland, is also to be formalised.

The Crown Estate is held and managed for the benefit of the people of the United Kingdom. 'The Crown Estate' is itself a marketing brand for the properties and rights that are managed by the Crown Estate Commissioners, themselves civil servants. Under the Scotland Act 1998, their administrative role is reserved to Westminster. The Estate currently has the rights to all mussels, oysters and salmon fishing where this has not already been granted out. It owns five rural estates, including Glenlivet and Fochabers in Moray.

However, the changes had been said to be a ‘missed opportunity’ by the Scottish Government. The Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lockhead said:

“This is a missed opportunity by the UK Government for much needed accountability of the Crown Estate. These developments do not go far enough and greater transparency is needed over all Crown Estate functions in Scotland. Today’s developments are a small step forward, but it must not be the end of the story. Scotland deserves better than a limited and reluctant release of the Crown Estate assets from centralised London control. Rather than being determined to hold on to the Crown Estate at any cost, the UK government should relinquish responsibility and devolve control to the Scottish Parliament and Scotland's communities.”

This renewed call for devolved power follows the publication by the Scottish Government of a paper setting out the case for the transfer of power.

Commenting on the changes, Gareth Baird, Scottish Commissioner for The Crown Estate, said: "We are serious about changing the way we do business in Scotland and the reforms we are announcing today acknowledge that we could have been more responsive to local communities in the past. They will ensure that in addition to delivering new inward investment, business and jobs opportunities in Scotland, our energy, rural and coastal businesses will be able to respond more effectively to the Scottish communities in which they operate." 

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