Scotland Bill and the Crown Estate IV

The Scottish Government has published its formal response to the Scotland Bill in a series of letters available here.

Of particular interest is its response on the topic of the Crown Estate Commissioners available as Annex F in their letter of 31 January.  This Annex sets out a formal position that the administration and revenues of the Crown Estate should be devolved and the Government proposes an amendment to Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998. This will have the same effect as my own suggested amendment to the Crown Estate Act 1961 as argued in paragraph 20 of my submission to the Scotland Bill Committee at Holyrood.

We thus now have a position where the Scottish Government supports the return of the administration and revenues of the Crown Estate to Scotland. It is joined by many others including the former Labour Minister of State at the Scotland Office, Brian Wilson, Highland Council, Professor James Hunter CBE, Orkney Islands Council, Lesley Riddoch, the Scottish Islands Federation, Local People Leading, Stephen Maxwell and Reform Scotland (all of whose submissions can be found here.

In addition, all the Highland Liberal Democrat MPs supported this position in  2006 but none have as yet stated publicly where they stand on the matter today.

Finally, it is worth noting that there is a more modest reform that would move things forward if the above proves unpalatable. The Calman Commission made a recommendation (No. 5.8) that the Secretary of State should, in consultation with Scottish Ministers, more actively exercise his powers of direction over the Crown Estate Commissioners. This never made it into the current Scotland Bill.

A more sensible way of moving things forward here would be to transfer the power of direction to Scottish Ministers. This could be effected by the following amendment.

Section 18 of Scotland Bill, insert new subsection (4)

(4) In Section1(4) of the Crown Estate Act 1961 replace “Secretary of State for Scotland” with “Scottish Ministers”