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".
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?
|Enterprise or Coastal Management Bodies||5||0||5|
|Land and Estates||1||0||1|
|Ports and Harbours||1||0||1|
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.
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|
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.