Loosening Crown’s grip on energy cash

Scotland is blessed with an abundance of renewable energy that can help our nation tackle climate change and power our nation.

Over time our renewable energy resources will also generate enormous revenues. This time the Scottish Government does not want Scotland to miss out on these revenues in the way that we have missed out on our oil and gas revenues.

This time the nation and local people in particular must benefit – with new jobs created and funds reinvested in local communities.

It may surprise you then that an unelected body, unaccountable to Scotland, stands to acquire much of this revenue which it will in turn channel directly to the UK Treasury in London, bypassing our local communities and Scotland. The body in question is the archaic Crown Estate Commissioners, who control the rights to the seabed in Scottish waters, as well as a number of other property assets across the country, including large rural estates.

Revenues that Crown Estate Commissioners generate from managing Scottish assets go directly to London and into the coffers of Her Majesty’s Treasury. Last year it’s estimated around £9million was returned to the UK Government by the Crown Estate Commissioners in Scotland. Perhaps as much as £100million collected in Scotland has gone south since the first sitting of the Holyrood parliament in 1999.

Looking to the future, as we seek to fulfil our potential for offshore energy generation, these revenues are set to massively increase in the years to come.

We cannot let the financial fruits of the renewables revolution pass us by, as has been the case with oil and gas. We must make the right decisions now to ensure the same mistakes are avoided. That’s why the Scottish Government has launched a public consultation to seek views on how our plans to increase renewable energy projects – especially offshore wave and tidal energy – can also give communities long-term benefits.

At the heart of this are our proposals for reforming the Crown Estate’s administration in Scotland, so that it’s more accountable to the Scottish people with revenues giving a direct benefit. Our plans also include setting up a Future Generations Fund and creating a publicly available register of community benefit for all green energy projects.

Devolving responsibility for the Crown Estate would mean Scottish control over other assets currently managed by the commissioners as well, including historic and culturally important sites like King’s Park in Stirling and Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

The consultation is open to responses until February 18 and I urge Borderers to get involved if they have an interest in making sure local people benefit from our renewable capabilities and that Scottish assets benefit Scotland. You can find out more at www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/11/26094907, by emailing securingthebenefits@scotland.gsi.gov.uk, or by writing to Marine Planning Team, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.

Richard Lochhead

(cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment, the Scottish Government)