Carmichael puts the case for devolution of Crown Estate to island communities

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill in the House of Commons calling for all functions of the Crown Estate in Scotland to be transferred to local authorities in the Northern and Western Isles - rather than Edinburgh.

Mr Carmichael’s amendment is in line with the proposals set out in the Smith Commission on the devolution of Crown Estate assets to the island communities.


Mr Carmichael said:


“The Smith Commission recommended that Scotland’s island communities should be given responsibility for the Crown Estate’s significant economic assets. Those who live in the Northern Isles are in the best position to manage these resources which would have a substantial impact on the local economies.


“I want this to happen as quickly as possible. That is why I have tabled this amendment to be voted on in the House of Commons. In May, John Swinney dismissed Cosla’s suggestion that the local authorities should manages these assets, instead stating that a new organisation – the Crown Estate in Scotland – will be granted control. This was disappointing, but not surprising. The SNP are intent on centralising power in Edinburgh and shy away from any moves to devolve responsibility to the Scottish islands.


“The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the devolution of the Crown Estate to the island communities is guaranteed before the Crown Estate as a whole is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. We can all imagine how, once control is passed to the Scottish Government the need to deliver to the isles becomes less urgent.” 


Notes to editors


Full text of amendment


‘(1A) The Treasury and Scottish Ministers must agree a scheme transferring to the control of each of Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (“the island authorities”) on the transfer date all the existing Scottish functions and rights of the Commissioners relating to those parts of the Scottish zone surrounding each of the island authorities.


(1B) The exact extent of the parts of the Scottish zone to be transferred subsection (1A) will be agreed by the Treasury and Scottish Ministers in consultation with the island authorities and in accordance with the principles contained within the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea articles 16, 74 and 84.’


Member’s explanatory statement

This Amendment would require the relevant functions of the Crown Estate in the Shetland Islands, Orkney and Na h-Eileanan Siar (the ‘Western Isles’) to be transferred to the councils for those areas. Articles 16, 74 and 84 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea set out principles for defining geographical extent in relation to the territorial sea, exclusive economic zones and the Continental shelf respectively.


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