The Crown Estate in Scotland has undergone major changes recently, however, the transfer of the Scottish assets to a Scottish body is only the beginning. Some of the most significant changes are still to come into effect and could have implications for landowners, individuals, and community groups when they do.

What is The Crown Estate?

The Crown Estate is the organisation responsible for the management of all property belonging to the reigning monarch. This property is split into four categories: rural, coastal, marine and urban. The Crown Estate is extensive – in Scotland it incorporates 37,000 hectares of rural land, around half of Scotland’s foreshore, and almost the entire seabed out to 12 nautical miles. It operates to increase the value of the land and to use the land to generate revenue. Any revenue generated from The Crown Estate is given to the Treasury to be used in the nation’s budget.

What’s changed and why?

In the light of the result of the 2014 referendum, the Smith Commission was appointed to find a way to devolve more powers to Scotland without granting full independence. The Commission suggested that the responsibility for The Crown Estate in Scotland should be devolved, and the revenue from the Scottish assets be given to the Scottish Government.

These recommendations were effected under the Crown Estate Transfer Scheme 2017.

Now all land in Scotland that was previously managed by The Crown Estate is being managed by a new public body; The Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management).

The revenue which is raised passes to the Scottish Ministers rather than the Treasury, and therefore is added to the Scottish Consolidated Fund.

What’s next?

The current body managing the estate is an ‘interim management’ body and was created to fill the gap while a long term strategy is established. The Scottish Government has consulted on the long-term management of The Crown Estate, with proposals in four areas: the overall framework of the long-term strategy, how the assets should be managed (including options for local, national, and hybrid management), how the revenue should be managed, and an assessment of the impact of changes to the current scheme.

While we do not yet know the form the permanent body will take following the consultation and published responses, inferences can be drawn from the business plan of the interim body.

The key points of the business plan are:

  • Growing the value of the estate;
  • Creating a more balanced property portfolio by selling £10m of assets and reinvesting; and
  • Realising wider socio-economic and environmental objectives, focussing on job creation, community investment, and sustainable business.

Action based on this plan has already allowed communities to have a much greater influence on how the assets of The Crown Estate are managed. The Tobermory Harbour Association has been granted statutory powers to manage the facilities at the harbour; and Harris Development Limited was granted a Local Management Agreement by The Crown Estate Scotland, which has allowed them to successfully obtain £1.35m in funding to create the Harris Marina Hub. Despite their status as an interim management body, The Crown Estate Scotland is taking bold measures to develop the Estate and increase community involvement.

The Crown Estate also owns salmon fishing rights and all gold mining rights in Scotland, and a change in the administration of The Crown Estate could mean a change in the way these rights are exercised. This could include transferring these rights to local communities, or giving communities greater control over how they are managed.

The Crown Estate also owns much of Scotland’s foreshore and seabed. As they have already supported many renewable energy projects using these resources, coastal landowners should be aware that there may be further scope to develop opportunities in the future.