Scottish Ministers are currently seeking views on the first ever Strategic Management Plan for the Scottish Crown Estate, which will determine how its land and property will be managed for the next five years and beyond.
Responsibility for, and power over, the revenue and management of the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland transferred to Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) (“CES(IM)”) on 1 April 2017.
With a total capital value of £385.8 million, the Scottish Crown Estate comprises:
- 37,000 hectares of rural land - agricultural tenancies, forestry and residential and commercial properties;
- ownership of just under half of the foreshore with rights to 5,800 moorings and some ports and harbours;
- rights to:
- lease the seabed to 12 miles offshore, including 750 fish farm sites, agreements with cable and pipeline operators, with equivalent right to the seabed out to 200 nautical miles;
- lease for offshore renewable energy and gas and carbon dioxide storage out to 200 nautical miles offshore;
- naturally occurring gold and silver;
- wild salmon and sea trout in rivers and coastal areas; and
- retail and office units in George Street, Edinburgh.
Purpose of the draft Plan
The Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019 provides for the assets to be managed to deliver value to communities, local authorities and industries, and in a way that enables other eligible bodies to take on management responsibilities for an asset or part of an asset.
The Scottish Ministers’ stated vision for the Scottish Crown Estate is that it is managed “sustainably, responsibly and fairly, and in a transparent and inclusive manner, to deliver financial benefits and wider and long term social, economic and environment benefits for Scotland and its communities”. The draft Plan envisages Scottish Crown Estate assets contributing to delivery of the Scottish Government’s wider objectives, for instance in relation to climate change, with the aim of providing the best outcomes for Scotland.
Potential for Local Management
Currently, all assets are managed by CES(IM) but Scottish Ministers are able to transfer or delegate management powers. The draft Plan contains a strategic framework for the future management of the assets by a variety of managers. It is anticipated that by 2025 there will be assets controlled by councils, communities or other eligible organisations such as Scottish Harbour Authorities, with a view to enabling greater involvement and control for local communities, of assets in their area.
Control over assets will be decided on a case-by-case basis and can be transferred or delegated to enable local decision-making. The intention would be to have shared supporting arrangements, to reduce duplication and fragmentation, and ensure retention of the skills and knowledge of staff currently employed by CES(IM).
National Management for National Assets
It is proposed that the seabed, and some other assets, will continue to be managed at a national level. This is due to the perceived scope for increases in activity relative to coastal and marine assets, compared to activity in rural land assets, and the seabed’s status as a strategic national asset of significant value.
The other assets to be nationally managed include:
- offshore renewables leasing and other seabed rights in the 12-200 nautical miles zone;
- rights over cables and pipelines (as these can transcend national UK borders); and
- rights to gold and silver and reserved mining rights.
More consideration is required for the management of assets such as rural estates, urban property at George Street, Edinburgh, offshore wind leasing in the 0-12 nautical miles zone, aquaculture and salmon fishing rights.
Management of some ports and jetties, as well as the foreshore and leasing for wave and tidal energy, are viewed as functions that could be devolved to councils or communities.
Potential Disposal of Assets
While it is important to maintain the capital value and income from the Scottish Crown Estate assets, the proposed Strategic Plan recognises that there may be a need to allow sales and new investments to be made, to generate greater capital value or income, and produce wider benefits.
Although it is expected that any sales will be at market value, a driver for reform has been to provide benefits to local communities. To enable such opportunities, there is recognition that sales at less than market value may be appropriate where this is balanced by wider long-term benefits and self-sustaining projects.
Corporate Plan and Island Impact
Managers of a Scottish Crown Estate asset will have to prepare a Corporate Plan or Management Plan setting out how the assets are to be managed over a three year period.
CES(IM) is therefore also consulting on its draft Corporate Plan. This sets out how the manager will carry out the duty of maintaining and seeking to enhance the value of the asset and whether there are any plans for disposals.
In addition, the Islands Act 2018 imposes a duty on Scottish Ministers, CES(IM) and local authorities to undertake an impact assessment as to whether a proposed strategy is likely to have a significantly different impact on an island community, compared with other areas of Scotland. Each Corporate or Management Plan prepared by a relevant authority will therefore be expected to include measures to ensure that the needs of island communities are met where the assets are located in an island community.
Anyone with an interest in the Scottish Crown Estate assets is encouraged to engage and contribute to development of the Plan. The consultation is open until 22 November 2019.