For the first time in The Highland Council’s history, the four political groupings on the Council have signed an agreement to work jointly and co-operatively to achieve a review of the Crown Estate in Scotland so that the resources involved, including Scotland’s seabed and much of its foreshore, produce greater benefits for local communities.
Drew Hendry, SNP, Chair of Planning, Environment and Development and Councillors Richard Durham, Independent, Michael Foxley, Liberal Democrat, and Jimmy Gray, Labour, have signed the agreement on behalf of the Council’s cross party working group, which aims to achieve changes to current policy and operations of the Crown Estate in the Highlands and more widely.
The cross party group will continue to promote the conclusions of the report - “The Crown Estate in Scotland – New Opportunities for Public Benefits” – which calls for a review “to ensure that the property, rights and interests which make up the Crown Estate in Scotland contribute more fully to the delivery of Scottish Government policies and the wellbeing of the people of Scotland”.
Expectations within the group that there will be a review have increased following the recent consideration of the report by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Environment Committee and its intention to further scrutinise and monitor the work of and developments at the Crown Estate. The property rights, which make up the Crown Estate in Scotland, are managed by the Crown Estate Commission (CEC) as part of the UK-wide Crown Estate, but are a distinct component of it because they are owned by the Crown in Scotland under Scots law.
Councillor Drew Hendry said: “We are calling for this change to help return vital benefits to rural folk and to make development of off-shore renewable energy more practical and successful. This approach has been endorsed by all parties in our Council and we are all working together on this issue.”
Councillor Richard Durham, said: “It is over 50 years since anyone had a proper look at this issue. There is now a compelling case for new arrangements given the changed circumstances of devolution. This is a Scotland-wide issue, but there is particular potential for the management of Scotland’s seabed and public foreshore to contribute far greater benefits to the many remote and rural communities in the Highlands and Islands. Increased local control and accountability will be particularly important with the development of marine renewable energy in the region.”
Councillor Michael Foxley said: “I have now had two meetings with the Minister, Michael Russell, about this very important initiative. Our coastal communities, whether harbour authorities or shellfish farmers, have suffered for far too long by the lack of local accountability of the Crown Estate Commissioners. The marine resource needs to be managed by the people of Scotland for their benefit. In the immediate future this will include the siting and community benefit from offshore renewables. We will all work together to achieve this in the Highlands soon.”
Councillor Jimmy Gray said: “This is an important cross-party issue and I welcome the agreement we have reached. We need to raise the profile of this campaign and highlight the benefits a review will bring to our local communities.”