Scottish Crown Estate draft strategic management plan: consultation analysis

Analysis of the responses received to the consultation on the draft Strategic Management Plan for the Scottish Crown Estate.

Section 1

Sustainable Development


Sustainable development is commonly defined as follows:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"[1].

The United Nations (UN) has a set of Sustainable Development Goals, and the Scottish Government has committed to implement these goals through the National Performance Framework which shares similar goals and aims. It is recognised that not all 17 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals will be of direct relevance to the Scottish Crown Estate assets due to their diversity. There is, however, a commitment that the assets will be managed in a way that optimises the contribution to these wider goals.

The reform of powers and duties relating to the management of the Scottish Crown Estate requires a manager of a Scottish Crown Estate asset to maintain and seek to enhance the value of the asset, and the income arising from the asset.

Further, the manager must:

  • Act in the way best calculated to further the achievement of sustainable development in Scotland.
  • Seek to manage the assets in a way that is likely to contribute to the promotion or the improvement in Scotland of economic development, regeneration, social wellbeing, and environmental wellbeing.

Sustainability is identified as an overarching principle in the management of the assets through the environmental, social, regeneration and economic requirements within the Act. Each decision on sustainability will be unique, depending on the type of asset being managed, the location, setting and the specific circumstances for that asset. Wider considerations will include the potential use of, and demand for, the asset and environmental sensitivity factors.

The consultation document provided a number of high-level examples to illustrate how the objectives, priorities and policies for the Scottish Crown Estate align with, and contribute to, Scottish Ministers' wider objectives, priorities and policies on social, environmental, economic wellbeing, and regeneration.

Table 4: Question 1

Are the opportunities to contribute to sustainable development appropriate for the Scottish Crown Estate?

  Yes No Total
Individuals 1 0 1
Organisations: 23 3 26
Local Authority 8 1 9
Enterprise or Coastal Management Bodies 5 0 5
Leisure/Tourism 4 1 5
Natural Heritage/Conservation 1 0 1
Other 3 0 3
Land and Estates 1 0 1
Other Commercial/Research 0 0 0
Fisheries/Seafood Bodies 0 1 1
Ports and Harbours 1 0 1
Total 24 3 27

Note: Question not answered by 7 respondents.

The vast majority of respondents said that the opportunities to contribute to sustainable development as outlined in the consultation document were appropriate for the Scottish Crown Estate (24, 89%), Table 4. There were strong levels of agreement expressed among both local and national organisations, and across the diverse range of organisations that responded to the consultation.

Much of the commentary provided by these respondents welcomed the explicit commitment and focus placed on sustainable development within the Plan, and there was agreement that it should be a "cornerstone aim" and "overriding principle" for the Scottish Crown Estate. And that this principle "should also apply to any management areas that are further devolved locally".

Further, there was general agreement that the sustainable management of the diverse portfolio of assets should be a key consideration in decision-making processes. These comments were typically mentioned by enterprise or coastal management bodies, land and estates, local authorities, leisure/tourism, and natural heritage/conservation bodies.

Respondents were also "reassured" by the attention given to different aspects of sustainable development within the Plan (e.g. social, environmental), and the breadth of both the definition used and the examples provided. Albeit, there were a few comments that aspects of sustainable development might need to be further defined.

The proposal that a flexible or "unique" rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to decisions on sustainability would be adopted was also welcomed, and considered a sensible approach. These points were often raised by leisure/tourism, local authorities, enterprise or coastal management bodies, and natural heritage/conservation bodies.

The points outlined above are reflected in the following quotes provided by two respondents:

"Positive to see decisions on sustainability will consider assets, location, setting, circumstances, wider factors, and environmental sensitivity. Assets can vary dramatically based on these factors, and so unique decisions are positive and assist in ensuring sustainability, rather than broad asset-wide decisions which may be sustainable in one location and unsustainable in others".

Local Organisation – Enterprise or Coastal Management Body

"….the opportunities to contribute to sustainable development across the Crown Estate portfolio have been sufficiently outlined in the plan".

National Organisation – Land and Estates

An issue raised by a couple of respondents (natural heritage/conservation body and land and estates) was the need to "conceptualise value in ways that go beyond traditional financial aspects to also embrace the wider economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development".

While not proposed within the draft Plan, a specific concern inferred was that environmental wellbeing could be "out-ranked" in decision-making processes by economic or financial considerations. Here, it was mentioned that assessments might not compare like for like, and that there could be greater clarity in the Plan around how (and if) different aspects of sustainability would be weighted. This same respondent felt that the wider context for assets was framed in primarily monetary terms, and that the Plan could include more detail on how the assessment of the contribution to sustainable development would work in practice.

There was a request from a few respondents (including enterprise or coastal management bodies and land and estates) for a greater emphasis to be placed on, and a stronger commitment made to, community empowerment within the final version of the Plan. It was reported that this was "at the heart of sustainable development, regeneration and social and economic wellbeing". Theimportance of communities delivering sustainable development across the estate was emphasised.

Wider feedback provided by these respondents relating to the community ownership of assets and community empowerment included the importance of:

  • Community ownership of assets as an important mechanism through which to achieve both local community benefits and sustainable development outcomes for Scotland.
  • Linked to the above point, was a view that Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) could position itself as a key strategic player – "an innovative brokering role" (e.g. acting as a third party to buy land and/or other assets identified by a community as beneficial for its sustainable development and subsequently sell or transfer the title to the land/asset to the community).
  • Allowing transactions for leases or sale at less than market value or nil if community groups were involved.
  • Taking into account existing local plans (e.g. Local Development Plans) to reflect on local needs and help identify opportunities for sustainable development.
  • Ensuring appropriate levels of consultation with communities directly affected by particular developments.
  • Drawing on the knowledge, experience and insights of the Scottish Government Islands Team that undertook consultation with local authorities and island communities to shape the National Islands Plan[2].

A community empowerment approach was viewed as "integral to considerations of sustainability", and this point is further reflected in the respondent quotes below.

"Plans need to be tailored to local needs so ideally local communities should be the starting point for agreeing relevant Scottish Crown Estate opportunities".

National Organisation - Enterprise or Coastal Management Body

"The examples given for Economic Wellbeing could be enhanced by including the potential to support Community Wealth Building, to ensure the assets of the Scottish Crown Estates support this approach to local economic development".

Local Organisation – Local Authority

Where specific comments were provided on the high-level examples provided in the consultation document, these have been captured in Table 5. The feedback largely confirmed that the examples provided were appropriate, but not necessarily an exhaustive list of potential opportunities.

Table 5: Wider Feedback on the High-Level Examples Provided

Sustainable Development Respondent Comments
Economic Wellbeing
  • It was reported that reference to training could be expanded. The Plan could highlight the role the Scottish Crown Estate can play in giving school children access to learning opportunities (e.g. land management, aquaculture). It was commented that these operations would only be sustainable if there was a strong supply of young people taking up employment opportunities in the sector.
  • The examples provided could be enhanced by including the potential to support Community Wealth Building, to ensure assets support local approaches to economic development.
  • The following bullet point could be added: "The exploration of potential value from the historic environment aspect of Crown Estate Assets, including tourism potential".
  • Where Economic, Social, Environmental and Wellbeing/ Sustainability overlap, it was felt that this could be highlighted in the Plan. It was suggested that better integration could help ensure that the different aspects of sustainable development do not appear to conflict with each other.
  • One respondent felt there was scope to include opportunities for youth engagement through the provision of job opportunities, education, recreation, and skills development.
Environmental Wellbeing
  • "Regeneration and making the area a better place to live and work, for example through providing new housing, bringing empty buildings or unused land back into use, increasing access to services and social and leisure facilities, improving the marine environment". This bullet point was considered more suitable under Social Wellbeing. It was also suggested that "the protection of the historic environment" was included as part of this example.
  • There could be a stronger focus on responding to the inter-related climate change emergency and the crisis facing biodiversity. It was reported that both need to be addressed to create a sustainable living environment. It was further commented that they have the same underlying causes and drivers, and solutions were often inter-twined.
  • Environmental Wellbeing would benefit from being defined, and incorporating the explicit intention with relation to natural heritage. It was reported that a definition was not readily available but does occur in existing Scottish legislation, including the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019 and the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.
  • It was felt that linking the impacts of climate change and waste missed a point around the impact of climate change on biodiversity and the marine environment. It was suggested that this could be split into two opportunities – one to contribute to waste management (e.g. via recycling) and the other to contribute towards climate change (via alternative green renewable energy, diverse woodland creation, and natural based solutions) commitments.
  • The third example could acknowledge that there might be unintended environmental impacts caused by the development of renewable energy.
  • The fourth example was considered to be a Social Wellbeing example.
  • It was reported that it would be better if the fifth example could focus on the development of a range of native, biodiverse woodlands in order to provide greater benefits for environmental wellbeing than monocultures of exotic commercial plantations (e.g. sitka spruce and lodgepole pine).
  • The sixth example was considered to be a Social Wellbeing or Economic example. Reference to the marine environment could be made more relevant by incorporating "the design or creation of spaces to facilitate engagement with the natural world".
  • It was felt that the tenth example that refers to rural estates/supporting tenant farmers could be enhanced by including "promoting/supporting the sustainable management of rural estates/farming practices".
  • It was reported that there could be separate points to demonstrate best practice in environmental stewardship in the management of Crown Estate assets, and examples of how this would improve the marine and terrestrial environment.
  • It was proposed that the Scottish Crown Estate could apply a principle of achieving positive outcomes for nature in relation to any developments within the assets (e.g. consider net-gain or similar concepts to achieve this). It was felt that this could make achieving Environmental Wellbeing more achievable.
  • One respondent felt that there could be a stronger focus on responding to climate change. While there is reference to recycling and reducing rubbish, it was felt that more emphasis could be given to promoting management that helps to sequester carbon and increase resilience and promote adaptation (especially at the coast where significant change is forecast) to climate change impacts.
  • It was reported that the Scottish Crown Estate has other assets that could support the development of CO₂ capture, transport and storage, and thus Scotland's net zero ambitions. For example, work by Scottish Carbon Capture Storage (SCCS) has shown that CO₂ transport by ship could be viable for the early stages of CO₂ storage in Scotland, and that Peterhead Port could be upgraded to accommodate CO₂ shipping. CO₂ can also be transported to offshore storage sites by pipeline on or buried below the seabed, requiring leases from the manager of the Scottish Crown Estate out to the 12 nautical mile limit, and crossing the foreshore where they make landfall.
  • It was suggested that the wording "with consideration of the protection of the historic environment" be added to the following points: "Appropriate opportunities for regenerating communities, such as bringing underused land or buildings back into a productive use and providing or enhancing services for the benefit of the wider or local community", and "Supporting local organisations to take on ownership or management of assets, such as buildings or land, foreshore and seabed to benefit the whole community".
  • Regeneration could consider the opportunities available to restore habitats/environmental status in line with infrastructural regeneration. It was reported that this could help embed sustainability and positive environmental outcomes, contributing to Environmental Wellbeing.
Social Wellbeing
  • "The direct improvement or retaining of cultural wellbeing and history (including historic sites) of society and individual groups for future generations". The following text was suggested as a replacement: "The direct improvement or retention of cultural wellbeing through the protection of the historic environment for future generations".
  • It was proposed that "engaging with their natural environment could be added to the example "Activities that can help people lead healthier lives through access to recreation opportunities". It was reported that evidence shows regular engagement in the natural world is beneficial for human health.
  • Social Wellbeing would benefit from being defined.

Only a few respondents said that the opportunities to contribute to sustainable development outlined in the consultation document were not appropriate for the Scottish Crown Estate (three, 11%). This included a local authority, a leisure/tourism body, and a fisheries/seafood body.

Where wider commentary was provided by these respondents, no common themes emerged. Rather the following individual points were raised:

  • A local authority commented that its experience from the Asset Management Pilot Scheme has been that Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) is powerless to ensure that managers seek to manage the assets in a way that is likely to contribute to economic development, regeneration and social wellbeing. This respondent mentioned that Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) is not able to attach socio-economic conditions to leases. In order for the aspirations of the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019 to be achieved, it was suggested that legal provision would be required to tie developers to delivering socio-economic benefit in communities.
  • The same respondent proposed a variety of measures to help address the point raised above:
    • Return of 100% of Crown Estate leasing revenues to host communities commensurate with the level of marine activity in that Marine Region and not by a Scotland wide, "length of coastline" formula.
    • The ability of local Asset Managers, with devolved leasing powers under the Pilot Scheme or the Act, to impose socio-economic conditions on developers seeking seabed or foreshore leases.
    • The introduction of a legal mechanism to tie developers to local socio-economic benefit by a Legal Agreement associated to the lease, similar to the Section 75 Agreement in place for development on land.
  • A leisure/tourism respondent commented that the sustainable development of the marine estate, in socio-economic terms, has not yet been appropriately addressed by Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) or Marine Scotland. Deriving socio-economic benefit to the "fragile communities hosting these developments" was considered crucial.
  • The same respondent suggested that Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) could be in a good position to support the net-zero emissions target through management based on land type. It was felt that this could be delivered in such a way as to maximise jobs and enhance the economy. Specific examples provided included:
    • Land that is currently minimally developed could be managed with the overarching goal of integrating carbon sequestering nature-based solutions into all aspects of its management.
    • Where there is peat, the land could be managed to maximise retention and sequestering of further carbon. Where the peat is degraded, restoration could be prioritised to maximise the carbon storage potential for now and for the future.
    • Where land has native woodland, enhancement could be prioritised, and where land is suitable for native woodland, its regeneration (and planting where this is not possible) could be prioritised.
    • Management of blue carbon could also be prioritised where this is suitable.
  • A fisheries/seafood body commented that the examples provided in the consultation document did not recognise the historic legal role of the Crown Estate to protect the rights of navigation and fishing. It was suggested that this could give greater clarity to the range of development activities, and help develop stronger links between the Plan, Scotland's National Marine Plan, and general/fisheries policies.



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