COUNCILLORS are to sign up to a political protest from the Highlands and Islands against the Crown Estate.
The SIC has long called for the London-based body to have its controls over use of the foreshore and seabed removed but to no avail. The current Scottish government is now showing willing to challenge the body for its perceived failure to adapt to devolution and the particular interests of Scotland.
Highland Council has drawn up a declaration of support for the call for Crown Estate Scotland to be reviewed, which has been signed by representatives of all the political parties on the local authority. It wants other councils to follow suit to show the strength of feeling and give environment minister Mike Russell more ammunition when he raises the matter later this month.
On Wednesday SIC councillors agreed to sign their own declaration, although not all felt able to add their names. Allan Wishart supported the cause but said the council needed to be wary it was not fuelling a battle between Edinburgh and London. Bill Manson had more appetite for the battle, accusing the Crown Estate of having fought against the principle of subsidiarity, which involves devolving control to local levels rather than centralising it.
Control over the body is a matter reserved by the UK government so Scottish ministers have little say over its operations in Scotland. Opponents claim that while the Forestry Commission has created a Scottish branch since devolution, answerable to the Scottish Parliament, the Crown Estate has moved in the opposite direction, closing its Scottish HQ and ceasing to manage its Scottish affairs as a separate operation.
The Crown Estate makes most of its money from its property assets in London. Its Scottish rights bring in only around five per cent of its profits, which go to the Treasury.