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Crown Estate Scotland reform legislation passed

Legislation that will give Scottish local authorities and communities more of a say in the running of Scottish Crown Estate assets has been passed by the Scottish parliament.27 Nov 2018

The Scottish Crown Estate Bill, once it has received Royal Assent, will provide for the long-term management of Crown Estate assets now devolved to Scotland. It also provides for further devolution of certain Crown Estate Scotland assets to be managed by local authorities, island councils, public bodies and community organisations, within a national governance framework.

Management of Crown Estate assets in Scotland was devolved to the Scottish government in 2017, following the recommendations of the Smith Commission. These assets include 37,000 hectares of land, seabed, coastlines and rural estates and related property rights, which include the rights to offshore renewable energy out to 200 nautical miles as well as the management of ports and harbours and rights to fish wild salmon and sea trout.

Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management), which manages Crown Estate land, property and property rights on behalf of the Scottish ministers, will be given permanent statutory status as Crown Estate Scotland once the bill receives Royal Assent.

"This new legislation provides the framework for Crown Estate Scotland to develop its management of the devolved Crown Estate assets in a manner tailored for Scotland," said property law expert Alan Cook of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"Crown Estate Scotland is currently working on its proposals for a new round of offshore leasing for Scottish wind projects, and developers are keen to engage with Crown Estate Scotland on the opportunities this will present for the next wave of offshore wind projects in Scottish waters," he said.

Crown Estate Scotland consulted on its provisional design for a new model which will be used to lease areas of seabed around the coast of Scotland for new offshore wind projects earlier this year. It is anticipating that it will launch its leasing programme in 2019, to ensure that projects are ready to deploy from the late 2020s onwards.

The Scottish Crown Estate Bill provides that the seabed will continue to be managed nationally, reflecting its status as an asset of "strategic national importance". Any future sales of the seabed will require the approval of the Scottish government.

Land reform secretary Roseanna Cunningham said that she was "delighted that parliament has agreed to open up the possibility for local authorities and communities to take direct control of the management of [Crown Estate] assets".

"This bill represents a significant step in reforming the management of the Scottish Crown Estate and in empowering communities," she said. "I look forward to visiting a part of the estate that is taken on by a local community in due course," she said.

Crown Estate Scotland chief executive Simon Hodge said that the new legislation would "give our tenants clarity and certainty about how the land and property they depend on may be managed in the future".

"Since starting operation in April 2017, we've worked hard to deliver wider economic, social and environmental value for Scotland, as well as returning profits to the Scottish government. This includes ambitious proposals for new offshore wind leading, a scheme to devolve management of land and property to local bodies, a £4.5m rural investment plan and much more," he said.