A Holyrood committee has welcomed the Scottish Crown Estate Bill in its stage 1 report, while suggesting ways it could be strengthened.
The bill sets out the long-term management, now devolved to Scotland, of Crown Estate assets, including 37,000 hectares of land, seabed, coastlines and rural estates, along rights to fish wild salmon and sea trout, the management of ports and harbours and offshore renewable energy sites. It aims to create opportunities for local authorities and community groups to run parts of the estate in a sustainable way.
In its report the Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee commends the Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) on the progress that has already been made in improving communication and engagement across the estate.
The committee particularly welcomes the bill’s approach towards considering wider environmental factors in estate decision-making processes, but believes these could be strengthened further.
It also commends the devolving of the management of some Crown Estate Scotland assets to local authorities and community organisations, a significant recommendation of the Smith Commission.
While some Scottish Crown Estate assets, such as offshore renewables, energy related assets and other cables and pipelines, should continue to be managed on a national basis, the MSPs believe there should remain provision for local authorities to take on the management of such assets where they can clearly demonstrate the appropriate expertise to do so. They are also broadly persuaded of the merits of continued national management of Crown Estate Scotland’s four rural estates, but recognise that circumstances may change and it may be desirable to retain the flexibility to have some local management in the future.
The committee recommends the bill should be amended to ensure the seabed cannot be sold, believing the seabed to be a national asset that should be managed nationally.
Ahead of consideration of the bill at stage 2 the committee recommends the Scottish Government clarify how it intends to maintain strategic oversight of all Crown Estate Scotland assets, after the management of some assets is transferred to local authorities and community organisations.
Committee convener Graeme Dey MSP commented: “The Bill aims to ensure the estate’s assets are managed sustainably by those who are best placed to do so. Whether that’s Crown Estate Scotland, a local authority or community group, this bill is a welcome step forward in terms of community empowerment.
“Since 2017, the Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) has worked hard to engage with the estate’s tenants and to improve communication with them, which is something that tenants have really welcomed. The bill offers an opportunity to build on this approach and to ensure that environmental factors are always at the heart of the Crown Estate in the future.”