Scotland’s seabed – how much is it worth?

Following the confirmation by the Treasury Committee that the Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC) do not own the seabed around Scotland (Scotland has always owned the seabed though it is “administered” and “managed” by the CEC), a key question arises – how much is it worth? If the Scottish Parliament were to abolish the Crown rights in the seabed what kind of revenues might be anticipated? What might a Scottish marine renewables sovereign fund look like?

I don’t have access to the rental agreements signed by the CEC but I found a report in the Times in 2008 in which industry insiders claim that the sums could be around £100 million per year – and that’s for offshore wind alone. It does not include wave, tidal, carbon storage or subsea cabling. The Scottish share of wind is probably only 20% or so according to this map from CEC but including the other developments, we are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Daily Mail claimed earlier this year that plans for gas storage under the North Sea are being delayed because of “excessive demands” from the CEC.

I have been contacted by an SNP MSP who describes my criticism of the Scottish Government as “not fair” and that the CEC is “work in progress”. I don’t buy this. Back in March 2008, the SNP’s Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir was complaining [broken link – Nov 2023] that the fees generated by the CEC represented a “clear power grab” which the “SNP will oppose tooth and nail”

But that was 2 years ago and since then, Alex Salmond and his government had been cosying up to the CEC when they could, instead, have abolished these Crown rights and stand now to set the terms of this marine bonanza that will make Scotland “the Saudia Arabia” of renewables. What’s more, all the evidence and facts were set out in December 2006 when the Crown Estate Review Working Group published its authoritative report.

I don’t know much about Saudia Arabia but I bet all the revenues from their oil deposits don’t head off to Tel Aviv or Cairo!