The UK government could give Shetland’s harbours, the aquaculture industry and local marinas a real boost by putting the Crown Estate under local control, MSP Tavish Scott has said.
He is writing to the Scotland Office asking that, when changes to the Scotland Act are being introduced, the marine areas of the Crown Estate should be devolved to Scotland.
Former isles MP Jim Wallace, now the adocate general in the Scottish Office, will be in charge of the proposed legislation.
Mr Scott said: “Shetland has argued for many years that the sea bed around our coast should be under local control. Previous UK governments never saw this as a priority. So I hope that this can change in the future.
“Many Shetland industries, particularly salmon farming, have been paying huge rents to the Crown Estate for years. The isles’ harbours, most notably Lerwick, invest local money building new quays and piers and improving existing ones. Yet the Crown Estate’s policy is not to sell the seabed, even that under the piers.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for harbour owners to own the land their quays and piers are constructed on. But the Crown Estate doesn’t agree and insists on leasing the seabed, imposing a hefty annual rental charge. This must change.”
Mr Scott said Shetland’s marinas had had many a tussle with the Crown Estate and their expensive agents. Shetland also had enormous potential for marine renewable energy developments harnessing the wave and tidal power resources.
He said: “Already one large renewable consortium plans to locate a wave power development off Shetland’s south-east coast. I don’t want the potential of this exciting industry, and the jobs it could develop in Shetland, to be put at any risk.
“The days of conflict would be put behind us, and Shetland’s maritime future would be all the more secure, if control of the seabed was wrestled away from this body.
“The proposed changes to the Scotland Act, which will be considered over the next 18 months, give a great opportunity to make this welcome change. I am urging the UK government to consider that potential.”