Scotland Bill and the Crown Estate III

 The Scotland Bill received its 2nd reading in the House of Commons yesterday (27 Jan 2011). The following extracts are the totality of references to the future of the Crown Estate in Scotland.

The ten Minute rule bill referred to was promoted in 2006 by Alistair Carmichael, Alan Reid, John Thurso, Danny Alexander and Charles Kennedy. A report in the Herald can be found here. It looks like the Liberal Democrats in the Highlands and Islands have lost their enthusiasm and that reform of the role of the Crown Estate Commissioners is, once again, being kicked into the very long grass by vested interests in Westminster.

Extracts from Hansard 27 January 2011

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indeed, years-but as yet we have seen nothing. That is something that the House will note and that will perhaps reduce the bluster on the part of some.
Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): To supplement the extensive list that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) read out, may I add the power of the Crown Estate being returned to the Scottish Parliament? Indeed, four or five years ago five Liberal highlands MPs supported that very proposal in a ten-minute rule Bill. Is that still the position of the Liberal party? If so, will the Liberals try to use the Scotland Bill to ensure that the Crown Estate is returned to Scotland?
Michael Moore: The hon. Gentleman is tempting me to get slightly ahead of myself. He will see the proposals that we have set out in the Bill, taking account of the evidence that was supplied to the Calman commission.
Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that those Scottish National party Members who are getting animated on this issue could easily have made a submission to the Calman commission if they so wished? Instead, they stood for self-interest, rather than Scotland’s interest.
Michael Moore: If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman makes the point very neatly. Like him, I await the SNP’s detailed proposals on either fiscal autonomy or the Crown Estate, so that they might be debated. I believe that what we have in the Bill is the right balance, which will give Scotland the powers and accountability that it should have.
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): On taxation generally, is not the lesson that we have learned, from the original Scotland Act 1998, through many Standing Orders over two Parliaments, that we are involved in an iterative process? What can be devolved should be devolved, but at a gentle pace, so that we can assimilate what has happened. In that regard, the agreement that the three parties have come to is the correct way to proceed at this time, but does not preclude further devolution when appropriate at a later stage.
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Michael Moore: I had nearly got back to the point I was at, but I shall give way.
John Robertson: On that point, I listened to the Secretary of State on the “Today” programme this morning, when he spoke eloquently about who would foot the bill if borrowing went-shall we say?-awry. What is to prevent a Government in Scotland from borrowing £500 million just before they lost power, to ensure that the incoming Government were saddled with a bill they could not pay?
Michael Moore: I would hate to destroy the cross-party consensus by making any inappropriate reference to a £155,000 million deficit, so I will move swiftly on. On the technical point the hon. Gentleman raises, if he looks again at the Command Paper, he will see that there are provisions to ensure that no Government will be able simply to borrow in order to stack up a capital reserve to spend in the future or to land a subsequent Administration in debt.
Mr MacNeil: On a point of clarification, would the right hon. Gentleman like to see power over the Crown Estate devolved to the Scottish Parliament?
Michael Moore: Those provisions are not in the Bill. That case has not been put forward in detail either by the Government of Scotland, of whom his colleagues are members, or by others. If such proposals were to come forward some time in the future, there could be a public debate, but as far as the Scotland Bill is concerned, it is consistent with the Calman commission and will make sure, formally, that we have a Scottish commissioner. That will ensure that Scottish interests on the Crown Estate are well represented in future.
As Secretary of State for Scotland, I am fully aware of my role in ensuring that we keep the Crown Estate focused on its interests across the whole of the United Kingdom. I have had two formal meetings so far and another is planned. That is probably as good a record as most recent Secretaries of State. I assure the hon. Gentleman and others who are concerned about the Crown Estate that we will continue to work to make it more accountable, more transparent and more focused on Scotland’s and the rest of the UK’s interests.