Scottish Crown Estate assets will be used to deliver more benefits for local communities, under a bill given final approval in the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
The Scottish Crown Estate Bill will enable local authorities, communities and harbour authorities to take on the management of Crown assets and manage them in a way that benefits local communities, within an overall national governance framework, while recognising that some may still need to be managed at national level.
Assets in the Crown estate include agricultural and forestry land, most of the seabed, just under half of the foreshore and some commercial property.
MSPs unanimously supported the bill following its stage 3 consideration, though Andy Wightman for the Greens and Tavish Scott for the Liberal Democrats would have preferred to see the Crown estate abolished outright.
Power in relation to the estate was devolved to the Scottish Parliament for the first time in 2016, following the recommendations of the Smith Commission.
Land Reform Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham commented after the vote: "I believe strongly in maximising the benefits of the Crown Estate for our communities, which is why I am delighted that Parliament has agreed to open up the possibility for local authorities and communities to take direct control of the management of these assets.
"Recognising the diversity of the Scottish Crown Estate, and the need to ensure sustainability of our natural assets, I am also announcing a strategic programme of work to give us the research required to make informed decisions on the sustainability of our seaweed sector. Importantly, this includes a review of the regulatory regime for all kelp harvesting activity in Scotland."
The bill includes an amendment preventing harvesting of kelp beds on environmental grounds, though some members voiced their disapproval that theb subject had been intorduced to the bill without evidence having been heard by a bill committee.
Simon Hodge, Crown Estate Scotland chief executive, said the legislation "helps give our tenants clarity and certainty about how the land and property they depend on may be managed in the future".
He added: "Since starting operation in April 2017, we’ve worked hard to deliver wider economic, social and environmental value for Scotland, as well as returning profits to the Scottish Government. This includes ambitious proposals for new offshore wind leasing, a scheme to devolve management of land and property to local bodies, a £4.5m rural investment plan and much more.
"This new legislation will enable us to focus even more on managing our assets in ways that benefit Scotland’s economy, people and environment."