The Scottish Crown Estate includes a diverse range of property, rights and interests. These assets are owned by the Crown and include currently: leasing of the seabed out to 12 nautical miles; leasing rights to renewable energy, cables and pipelines on the Continental Shelf; 37,000 hectares of rural land; rights to naturally-occurring gold and silver; and just under half of Scotland’s foreshore including 5,800 licensed moorings, 750 leased aquaculture sites and salmon fishing rights.
In 2014 The Smith Commission recommended responsibility for management of the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland, and the revenue generated from these assets, should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.
On 1 April 2017, the devolution of management was devolved and Scottish Ministers established Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) to manage the assets.
The Scottish Crown Estate Bill was laid in Parliament on 24 January 2018 and built on The Smith Commission recommendation on the management and revenue of the Crown Estate in Scotland. The Bill was approved by the Scottish Parliament on 21 November 2018, and the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 15 January 2019.
The Act reforms the legal framework for management of the assets including new powers to change the manager of a Scottish Crown Estate asset, a new set of duties and accounting arrangements for the assets and for the name of the current manager to be changed to Crown Estate Scotland. The existing legislative framework under the Crown Estate Act 1961 and the Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) Order 2017 applies until the relevant provisions of the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019 are commenced.
The Act provides an opportunity for a phased approach to implementation of the reforms, including consideration of which parts of the estate are managed at the local level and wider reforms to how assets are managed, while recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach is not practical and some assets will need to be managed at the national level.
The first commencement order brought into force on 1 June 2019 a duty for the Scottish Ministers to prepare a Strategic Management Plan (the Plan) for the Scottish Crown Estate under section 22 of the Act, which also sets out the requirements of that Plan. The Plan must set out the objectives, priorities and policies in relation to the management of the Scottish Crown Estate and must include an assessment of how those align with the Scottish Ministers’ other objectives, priorities and policies. It can also include such other information about the Scottish Crown Estate and its management as the Scottish Ministers consider appropriate.
The Scottish Ministers must consult with managers and other persons they consider appropriate in preparing the Plan and lay a copy of the Plan before the Scottish Parliament, with the Scottish Ministers then publishing the Plan as soon as reasonably practicable after it has been laid. A manager of one or more Scottish Crown Estate assets is to have regard to the Strategic Management Plan when preparing a Corporate Plan or Management Plan and when exercising management functions.
A five-yearly review of the Plan is to take place in accordance with section 23 of the Act. A review may either result in a revised Plan being prepared (subject to the same statutory consultation, laying and publication requirements) or in the Scottish Ministers laying a statement before the Scottish Parliament that they consider the Plan should not be revised.
In order to ensure a smooth commencement and implementation of the different sections of the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019, the Scottish Ministers will progress implementation in a phased approach. The remaining provisions of the Act will be commenced in order to become law, through a series of instruments to be laid in the Scottish Parliament.