As many may be aware, the Scotland Act 2016 provided for the devolution of the management of the Crown Estate in Scotland. While the asset transfer is still to take place, the Scottish Government launched a new consultation document on 4 January 2017 looking at the future management of those assets held by the Crown Estate in Scotland.

Crown property rights account for a significant portion of land ownership in Scotland, including the seabed and an estimated 50% of Scotland’s foreshore. This management of the seabed and foreshore has an impact on many sectors and activities that are fundamental to Scotland’s economy. Offshore renewables, the siting of cables and pipelines, the aquaculture industry, and sport and leisure activities (including salmon fishing) are just a few examples. Given the variety of both commercial and private interests likely to be affected by the new management regime when it comes into force, we felt that it would be useful to highlight the existence of the consultation document so that interested parties have the opportunity to put forward their views.

Generally speaking, the consultation document seeks views on how the Crown Estate in Scotland should be managed in future and what reforms are needed to best achieve the desired outcomes. It focuses on four specific areas, which can be broadly summarised as follows:

  1. Vision – The Scottish Government is considering is whether there should be a departure from the existing framework, whereby assets continue to be managed on a commercial basis but with a new discretion put in place to take account of socioeconomic or environmental benefits when charging for a lease or sale of land. It is also looking for views on whether the existing Crown Estate portfolio in Scotland should be preserved in its current form and whether (for example) the general presumption against selling the seabed should be maintained.
  2. Managing Crown Estate Assets for Scotland and Communities – While ownership of the Crown Estate in Scotland will remain vested in the Crown, management and revenue generation will transfer. The consultation document asks whether assets should be managed at a national or local level or whether a hybrid model (essentially a case-by-case approach) for managing the Crown Estate assets in Scotland should be adopted. The Government is also keen to investigate ways in which Scotland’s communities could enjoy future benefit from those assets.
  3. Securing the Benefits for Scotland and Communities – Views are sought on how revenue should be managed in the future and how the liabilities associated with management of an asset ought to be dealt with, for example who should be liable for the settlement of restoration costs after decommissioning of marine infrastructure?
  4. Assessing Impact – The consultation document asks for views to be put forward on the likely impact of the Scottish Government’s proposals on business, regulation, environment, equality and privacy.

In our view the consultation provides an opportunity for interested parties to say at an early stage how they believe the new management regime should work in practice and to give thought to the potential financial and social benefits which could be generated.

The consultation will run until 29 March 2017 and details can be found on the Scottish Government website.