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September 15, 2010

No control over off-shore bonanza

If the property rights to Scotland’s territorial seabed are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, why is the body with responsibility for its management – The Crown Estate–not accountable to the Scottish Parliament as well?   The Crown Estate has started to lease areas of Scotland’s seabed for the production of off-shore renewable energy.  Potentially vast revenues are involved and unlike the oil, these resources won’t run out.  An interesting statement from the First Minister last week suggests change may be on the way

An interesting statement from Alex Salmond last week in the Scottish Government’s statement on its legislative programme. The relevant part of his statement is as follows (as published on the Scottish government website).

• And we are blessed not just with an abundance of water, but with a wide abundance of natural assets and resources: I believe that these belong, fundamentally, to the people of this land.

• We stand at the threshold of another energy revolution, in renewables, and we must ensure that the mistakes of the past, when the takings from North Sea Oil and Gas were siphoned off elsewhere are not repeated.

• So we will consult on legislation for the communities of Scotland to benefit from the exploitation of their natural resources.

• Only Shetland was wise enough to benefit from the oil boom, and it currently sits on a oil fund not far off £200 million.

• Norway created a fund, and it is closer to £300 billion.

• It will be many years before revenues from offshore renewables reach that scale. However a start should be made.

•The only public body which is currently accrues a direct benefit from the offshore development is the Crown Estate Commissioners and we have worked well with the Commissioners. But the revenues go direct to Treasury and that cannot be right.

• Because the communities of Scotland – the Scottish people – must secure an endowment from our own natural resources as well as having a say in how they are developed.