Good news today that Richard Lochhead has met with Secretary of State Michael Moore and they have agreed to work together to bring more accountability to how the Crown Estate Commission (CEC) manange the crown estate in Scotland. This could be the start of something significant though I wonder how committed the SNP government is on this?

It’s pity that the Press Release is titled “Case for change at Crown Estate” when what is meant (presumably) is “Case for change at Crown Estate Commission”. And in his statement, Lochhead refers to “accountability for the Crown Estate” when what he really means is “accountability for the Crown Estate Commission”. Notable too that what Lochhead and Moore agreed was for the need for greater transparency and accountability – that is not the same thing as reform. Is this just going to be about administrative reform within the CEC? We need more than just change within the CEC.

The bottom line is that full control of all crown property rights should be vested in the Scottish Parliament. Control over the property rights is already with the Parliament but the administration of these rights and the revenuse flowing from them are reserved to Westminster. There are a number of ways of sorting this but if the debate is simply about accountability, transparency and community benefits then we will have lost a unique opportunity to sort out once and for all an anomoly that has now existed for 180 years. The fact that Moore and Lochhead are planning to work together, however, is a good sign.

As my forthcoming book, The Poor had no Lawyers goes off to the printers there is no time to reflect these latest developments in the chapter on crown land. It would be hard to know what to say in any case – history is littered with politicians moaning about the CEC but no-one has yet done anything about it. I hope these latest moves bear more fruit.

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