A Scottish Parliamentary committee has made a strong recommendation that full ownership and control over the seabed should be handed to the islands.
MSP Tavish Scott, who is a member of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, welcomed the strong support which the Scottish Parliament Committee has given to further devolution when control over the Crown Estate’s Scottish assets is transferred.
The committee has examined and commented on the Smith Commission’s proposals for further devolution of powers to Scotland from Westminster, and recommends the Crown Estate assets in Scotland are devolved to local authorities such as Shetland Islands Council. The committee also recognised the scope for further devolution to others in coastal areas such as harbour and port authorities.
Mr Scott, who also served on the Smith Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Smith of Kelvin, said: “I have long argued that the dead hand of the Crown Estate should be lifted from Shetland. But I do not want it replaced by the dead hand of Edinburgh. That is why I pushed for the Smith Commission to recommend further devolution of the seabed assets to Shetland and other island areas and why I continued to push for this in the Holyrood Committee.
“Shetland Islands Council already has, largely through the ZCC Act, many regulatory powers over most of our coastal waters. Adding full ownership and control over the seabed makes sense. The council understands the community’s needs while potential developers would have one less regulatory body to deal with.
“The one area of Shetland’s seabed which SIC does not control is that in Lerwick Harbour where the port authority controls developments. I want to see the port authority gain the ownership and control over their seabed helping them build on their success in developing one of Scotland’s leading ports.”
Mr Scott added that as the sea and seabed had always been of vital importance to Shetland, the people who knew best how it should be protected and used were the people of Shetland.
“That is why I want our seabed to pass to the council and to the port authority. That is why I will continue to push for this to be done without delay, as the Smith Commission proposals for further devolution make their progress at Westminster and Holyrood,” he added.