Highland Council’s review proposals would be "costly and damaging " – Fishupdate.com

Highland Council’s review proposals would be “costly and damaging ” Published:  22 February, 2007

Ian Grant

SUGGESTIONS contained in the final report of the Highland Council’s Crown Estate Review Working Group (CERWG), published today, would be damaging, costly and bureaucratic.

This is the conclusion of The Crown Estate, which argues that, if implemented, many of the suggestions would be damaging to the interests of communities across Scotland.

The report’s suggestions include transferring the management of the seabed from The Crown Estate to the Scottish Executive and the foreshore in its ownership to local authorities. It also raises the prospect of selling off the Crown Estate’s award winning rural estates.

The Crown Estate in Scotland currently generates revenue surpluses of £11m each year, which goes to the Treasury as a contribution to public spending.

“An impression has been created that Scotland loses out from its relationship with The Crown Estate,” explained Crown Estate Chairman Ian Grant. “The reverse is the case. Scotland generates around 6% of The Crown Estate’s total contribution to public spending. What comes back to Scotland in terms of its share of public spending is much greater.”

“To put this into further context, the foreshore around the Highlands and Islands in Scotland generates around £250,000 in gross revenue. In many areas the costs of management and collection exceed the income received. Additionally, The Crown Estate in Scotland invests around £500,000 per year in coastal projects through its Marine Stewardship Fund. The Crown Estate has also committed a further £600,000 to fund measures to restore confidence in the Scottish salmon farming industry. These include The Crown Estate Scottish salmon awards which showcase best business, community, and environmental practice.”

CERWG’s proposals have now sparked concerns amongst a wide range of organisations and businesses working in the marine economy.

Jeremy Sainsbury of Natural Power said: “The Crown Estate’s knowledge of the marine environment ensures a robust and environmentally sensitive decision making process. They are an important link in the chain between government and the various sea using communities.”

David Vass, secretary of the West Highland Moorings Association said: “We would be concerned about the lack of expertise if local government assumes control. There would almost certainly be an increase in bureaucracy and attendant costs. We see the loss of The Crown Estate stewardship scheme as a very serious and retrograde step as it fulfils a role that local authorities appear unable to do – access long term capital for badly needed marine projects.”

Ian Grant continued: “Management of the Marine Estate benefits from the efficiency of a team of centrally-based specialists located at our office in Edinburgh who draw on the expertise of a network of local agents. If the responsibility was handed over to local authorities, there would be massive duplication leading to excess bureaucracy, higher costs and a damaging loss of unique and expert knowledge.”

The previous draft report controversially suggested the selling off of the Crown Estate’s rural estates, such as Glenlivet. The final report is now more equivocal on this idea although it retains it as an option.

“Selling off the estate would be a detrimental step and greatly disadvantageous to our community,” explained Rita Marks, secretary of the Glenlivet and Inveravon Community Association.

“Consultation on all aspects of community life is constant, on-going and most importantly, listened to and acted upon. Whether it is consulting on way-marked paths, upgrading the public hall, contributing financially to our community events or providing training, The Crown Estate never lets us down.”

Farming groups, including NFU Scotland and the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association have also expressed their concerns about the potential implications of the report.

NFUS President John Kinnaird said: “The tenanted sector is hugely important to Scottish agriculture. It relies on good relationships between landlords and tenants. From speaking to our tenant members it is clear that they view The Crown Estate as a good and progressive landlord. There is no case for a change, especially one which might undermine a good relationship.”

Alan Laidlaw The Crown Estate’s Head of Customer Management for the Rural Estate also commented: “Despite the size and cost of this report it has not demonstrated that the estates are run contrary to the public benefit as the report implies. We are in the unique position of being able to manage these estates as public benefits whilst demonstrating best practice.”

Ian Grant added, “The report seems to be the efforts of a minority with an opposition in principle to The Crown Estate which blights common sense.”

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