24th March 2017

Sturgeon promises Crown Estate cash and local involvement in management

19 comments, , by , in Headlines, News

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that islands like Shetland will benefit from all the income generated from activities within 12 miles of the shore.

Speaking at a meeting of the Convention of the Highlands and Islands (COHI) in Kirkwall on Monday, the first she has attended since becoming First Minister, Ms Sturgeon said that government focus was on ensuring devolution of the Crown Estate to the Scottish parliament took place “in a workable way”.

She also said that she did not believe the current Scotland Bill truly reflected the spirit of the Smith Commission proposals on which further devolution is based. Further consultation on how to implement devolution, including the Crown Estate, will continue after the devolution of powers to Holyrood.

Speaking on the future of the Crown Estate, Ms Sturgeon, also making her first trip to an island as First Minister,

Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the crowd in the Shetland Museum during her visit before the referendum. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Nicola Sturgeon wants to see more decision-making powers devolved to local government. Photo: Dave Donaldson

said: “Once we have achieved devolution, we will consult on how the new body will operate in Scotland.”

She added: “I can confirm today that later this summer, we will launch a consultation on greater powers for Scotland’s islands. That consultation is the perfect opportunity to share and consider ideas about the future powers of the islands. We want to understand the best way to work with you to promote your economy, harness your resources, and enhance the wellbeing of your communities.”

Central to this process, she added, was the future of the Crown Estate.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish government’s current focus is on ensuring the devolution of the Crown Estate to the Scottish parliament takes place in a workable way – we do not believe the current Scotland Bill truly reflects the spirit of the Smith Commission proposals. Once we have achieved devolution, we will consult on how the new body will operate in Scotland.

“I am committed to working closely with local authorities to involve local communities in the day to day running of the Crown Estate’s assets. As part of that, we’re planning that coastal and island councils will benefit from 100 per cent of the net revenue generated in their area from activities within 12 miles of the shore. People will gain a greater say in managing their local coastline – and communities will get a bigger benefit from the natural resources which are on their doorstep.

She added: “The principle in all of this is very clear. People who live in local communities are in the best position to take decisions about those communities. Giving more powers to local authorities, to islands and to local communities is an essential part of creating a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon said that she welcomed the opportunity to discuss the specific challenges facing the Highlands and Islands in particular “empowerment”, broadband connectivity and transport infrastructure – issues that are “all the more important, the further you get from the central belt”.

The government, she said, saw the broadband project as “truly transformational”. Without public money, no commercial broadband would have been planned, but the target 84 per cent “of the Highlands should be a staging post rather than a final destination.

“That’s why Community Broadband Scotland is working with development trusts to explore how to deliver broadband services to the remoter islands,” she added.

“We’re determined to ensure that the Highlands and Islands isn’t left behind – and that your digital infrastructure enhances the sustainability and prosperity of your communities.

“Alongside that investment in digital infrastructure, we’re also investing heavily in road, rail, air and sea links.”

The Air Discount Scheme was being extended for a further four years to the end of March 2019 and new ferries were being ordered.

“What all of this represents is an unprecedented investment in the transport and digital infrastructure of the Highlands and Islands. I am well aware that it won’t resolve every difficulty or eliminate every inconvenience – but it should bring benefits for tourists, for businesses and for individuals in communities right across the area. Our investment in connectivity is a crucial part of how we create a fairer and wealthier nation in all parts of the country,” she added.

Equally important was how to give local authorities and local communities more power to take decisions for themselves. That push for greater community involvement had sprung from the release of political energy involved in the referendum debate.

“We need to find new ways of harnessing that democratic energy – not just in the great constitutional questions of our time, but also in the day to day decisions made by and for communities across the country,” said Ms Sturgeon.
Land reform was a good example and why the Scottish government was trebling the size of the Scottish Land Fund, which supports community buy-outs. In total, the Scottish government had set a target that a million acres of land should be in community ownership by 2020.

A Land Reform Bill is being introduced later this month on the back of strong public support for such legislation.

The bill will modernise the legal framework of rights and responsibilities around land – looking at issues such as land use, access, ownership and development. It will help to ensure that the “ownership and use of land in Scotland is in the public interest – that it contributes to the collective benefit of the people of Scotland.”

The Community Empowerment Bill will give community organisations the right to ask if they can purchase, lease, manage or use land and buildings which belong to public bodies. It will also require national and local public bodies to promote participation by members of the public in the decisions that affect them. And it refocuses the purpose of community planning, so that it is about how public sector bodies work with themselves, and with others, to improve outcomes and tackle inequalities.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We are making very specific steps to ensure that the needs of island communities are recognised and addressed. The Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities prospectus – which the previous First Minister launched here in Kirkwall last June – was the most comprehensive empowerment package for our Islands put forward by any government. Since then we have appointed a minister for the islands – Derek McKay – and established an Islands Area Ministerial Working Group. That group meets here tomorrow to discuss transport.”

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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19 comments

  1. peter smith

    Any chance of getting the housing money they stole from us as well?

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      Considering this matter of a £40 Million historical debt has been going on since 1971, I think this is probably your only hope of recouping ANY of this money? It’s a pretty tough call to get the UK government to cough up what they promised 44 years ago and considering we’ve had Labour Tory and Lib/Dems in power throughout this whole period and not one of them were able to deliver, it now seems it’s down to the SNP to do their best to take over from the incompetents?

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Pure humbug, Robin. The fact is, the SIC and Shetlanders are £2.3 million a year worse off because the SNP stopped passing on the housing support grant money from Westminster as soon as they got their majority in 2012. They’re stillmreceiving the money.

        Does having to defend this SNP injustice not leave you feeling a bit “ill at Ease (dale)”?

      • Ali Inkster

        Wrobin, the debt was serviced by the Westminster government. It was your beloved SSnp who at the first opportunity stole that money for paying electoral bribes in their central belt heartland. The fact is you can put any kind of spin on it you want but there is no getting away from it, the SSnp has nothing but contempt for Orkney and Shetland something I have been aware of since 1988 when the first mention of a 12 mile limit for the isles was brought up by the SSnp in reply to the party faithful questioning the standing down of their candidate in favour of the Shetland movement candidate.

      • Gareth Fair

        Robin,
        Can I ask if you currently live in Shetland?
        Seems an odd stance on this issue.

      • Robin Stevenson

        Here we go again John, I’m STILL waiting for your answer with regards to this £2.3 Million pa you keep throwing in the mix?…Let’s do the math then:

        [your figure] £2.3Mil x 44 years = £101.2 Mil Since 1971 agreed?

        The thing is John, the SNP have only been in majority government for the last 4 years, therefore

        £2.3 Mil x 4 = £9.2 Mil since 2011….Hmm so where’s the other £92.1 Million then John????

        Looks like the “Humbug” is coming from yourself John, please explain?

      • John Tulloch

        Robin,

        It gives me great pleasure, yet again, to answer your somewhat tedious, silly point.

        The housing support grant was paid by Westminster to compensate SIC for taking out a £40 million loan – at government request – to build houses to assist the 1970s oil boom. The UK and Scotland were both beneficiaries of that.

        The housing support grant was to cover the loan INTEREST – the CAPITAL remained outstanding. If you take out an interest only loan you may pay the interest for100 years but the capital remains outstanding. Try telling your bank otherwise and see what they say.

        Although not ideal, the arrangement was acceptable because the interest was being paid so the SIC was no worse off. Following devolution the money continued to be paid via Holyrood and the arrangement was honoured by all Scottish administrations until 2012 when SNP housing minister dishonoured it by stopping the payment.

        Burgess made the suggestion, repeated by Derek MacKay, that the SIC should repay the housing debt from its own reserves. Meanwhile, Holyrood pocketed the £2.3 million a year, equivalent to taking £40 million and investing it at just over 5 percent return.

        Neat, eh? You thought you were being “fly” but you’ll pay for it in the end, at the ballot box.

      • Robin Stevenson

        One simple question John, Show me where the Scottish government receives this [alleged] £2.3 Million that they’ve been pocketing for the last 3 years? [as you insist]

        There is no point in taking out an “Interest only” mortgage without investing in some other vehicle to pay off the original debt, otherwise you’d be paying interest for the rest of your days, is this the well thought up plan then?

      • Steven Jarmson

        Robin, even you’re beloved leader acknowledges that the HSG has been taken away from Shetland and as a result we’ve lost out financially.
        Why, when Frau Fuhrer admits it, can’t you?
        Shetland has lost out under this anti-Northern Isles government since the Central-Belt Needs Everything Party took over.
        They see nothing north of the Tay except money, even the Tay is a bit blurry to them.

  2. John Tulloch

    Never mind the “crumbs from the rich man’s table”, what about officially recognizing the high cost of living and providing services in remote islands – Westminster has done it?

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      I wish you could be happy about this John

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        And I wish you could take off your SNP standard issue “rose-tinted spectacles”, Johan.

        Do you imagine that this will make up for the £12.3 million a year from education and the stopped housing support grant? Or the exorbitant cost of ferry travel within and without Shetland? Or the £80 million a year excess tax over funding received?

        And before Mr “Glibtroll” Stevenson says it, it’s no use greetin that Westminster collects the taxes because if Scotland were independent and Shetland joined with them, the £80 million a year excess would go to Holyrood.

      • Johan Adamson

        Yes but if commentators are just always scornful and never remotely positive then when there really is something to shout bah humbug at you will not be believed. I rather like my rose tinted specs, actually.

      • Robin Stevenson

        And that £80 Million that you talk of going to Holyrood instead of Westminster, remind us again of Shetlands annul block grant John?”…considerably more?…Really?

        Incidentally, Westminster “Does” collect our taxes, which part are you struggling to understand?

        “Glibtroll”?..Not really John, just someone fed up with your selective half – truths and misinformation.

      • John Tulloch

        I repeat, Robin Stevenson, “it’s no use greetin that Westminster collects the taxes because if Shetland becomes “part of (independent) Scotland”, nothing will change except that the £80 million a year excess tax will go to Holyrood”.

        Why do Danus Skene and Co. refuse to talk about local issues?

        After all, it’s pretty “unpoliticianlike” to be so reticent when they have something to brag about, is it not?

      • Ali Inkster

        Wrobin you are almost completely ignorant of any facts pertaining to Orkney and Shetland, Without the box you probably could not even find us on the map.
        So let me explain the £80 million that John is speaking about is the net excess from direct taxation after all money returning from the government is taken into account. That is the block grant, the ferry subsidy and any other crumbs we may get back. It does not include the £billions being taken in oil and fishing rights.

      • John Tulloch

        Johan,

        You do me an injustice, I was most enthusiastic about Westminster’s official recognition of the exorbitant costs of living and providing services in remote islands. Arranged by Alistair Carmichael, this is by far the most meaningful gain I’ve heard of, to date, coming out of Our Islands, Our Future, compared to which the SNP’s Crown Estate income is “crumbs from the rich man’s table”

        The SNP has not equalled that. Which is why the isles suffer injustices – nothing to do with Westminster cuts – like the “stealth under-funding” of education and transport that are, relentlessly, sucking their oil reserves to the SNP’s central belt heartland.

      • Robin Stevenson

        I’m afraid Ali I must be “almost completely ignorant” as you say then? [although “almost” and “completely” seem to kinda cancel each other out? but I digress]

        True, I am completely ignorant as to why both yourself and John believe that the Scottish government can somehow magically pass Westminster and manage to steal Shetlands oil reserves? While at the same time are unable to do that with any oil reserves in the North sea? I completely underestimated their sneakiness?
        Steal yours and give away ours?..Now “That’s” clever.

        I’m also “ignorant” to the fact that neither you nor John seem to realise that “crumbs from the rich man’s table” Is how Scotland views our relationship with Westminster? As Scotland is NOT the “rich man” your comment is, frankly, lost on me?

        Ooh! to be so enlightened as you are, I can only hope? 🙂

      • John Tulloch

        Robin,

        Thanks to Alistair Carmichael, Westminster has officially recognised the very high costs of living and providing services in remote island groups. Why doesn’t the SNP do the same?

        If the SNP had done the same as Westminster, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

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