Crown Estate criticised over failure to review interests –

Crown Estate criticised over failure to review interests Published:  19 December, 2006

Alistair Carmichael

ATTEMPTS to get the Secretary of State for Scotland to carry out a thorough review of the Crown Estate’s interests in Scotland have failed.

The Crown Estate Review Working Group, which is made up of the six local authorities in the Highlands and Islands, challenged the organisation in a report published last month.

But, in a letter to northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish secretary Douglas Alexander has now ruled out any such review, pointing out that Crown Estate matters are reserved and the issues raised by the working group could be dealt with by the Crown Estate itself.

Mr Carmichael said it was time for the Labour government to stop “burying their head in the sand” and start tackling some the issues that matter to local people.

The LibDem MP, a long term critic of the way the Crown Estate operates, said last night: “Taxes levied by the Crown Estate on businesses such as fish farms in the north of Scotland put local companies at a disadvantage against international competitors.

“The development of off-shore wind, tidal and wave energy makes it all the more important that the ownership and control of the seabed is sorted out.

“The Crown Estate continues to operate with the sole objective of

maximising revenues for the Treasury. The seabed must not be seen as a cash cow for Gordon Brown, but as a resource to be used for the good of local communities.”

Mr Carmichael had written to Mr Alexander following the publication of the working group’s proposals, which called on the Secretary of State to initiate a review of the property, rights and interests of the Crown Estate in Scotland.

Mr Alexander said: “I believe that a number of the detailed issues the

report identifies could be addressed within existing Crown Estate

structures and that the case for wholesale structural change is not made.

“I therefore do not think that a review of the Crown Estate arrangements would be appropriate at this juncture. I would nonetheless encourage those who commissioned the report to engage with the Crown Estate to discuss specific matters of concern.

“The Crown Estate is a reserved, rather than devolved, responsibility. We have no further comments on the draft report.”

The Crown Estate had already last week commented on the call for a review, warning that any break up of its marine estate would be both costly and lead to a loss of valuable expertise.

Mr Carmichael said: “Douglas Alexander’s decision to reject calls for a review of the role of the Crown Estate is disappointing but perhaps not surprising given how much money the government gets from them each year.

“The recommendations, made by the Crown Estate Review Working Group,

however, must be taken seriously and this is an issue which I intend to continue to pursue.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.