RYA Scotland has responded to the current Scottish Government consultation on the Crown Estate in Scotland which closes on 29th March.

The consultation provides an opportunity to help shape the long term framework for the devolved management of the Crown Estate in Scotland and how the revenue should be used to benefit Scotland and communities. A new framework will require legislation at the Scottish Parliament and this consultation focuses on the future purpose of the Crown Estate in Scotland and what changes are needed to the existing legislation to deliver that purpose.

“This consultation is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help shape the future management of The Crown Estate in Scotland and how the revenue can be used to benefit Scotland and communities. It is vital that all interests respect other views on the options for change and grasp the opportunities by working together to agree practical solutions.” Roseanna Cunningham MSP Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

The formal submission has been prepared with input from members of the RYA Scotland Cruising and General Purposes Committee, Council and Management Committee. It is very in depth and truly representative of the Scottish boating community interests, whether connected to RYA Scotland or not.

Howard Marsden of RYA Council noted. “The response is very encompassing and thoughtful. Whoever was involved in it has put in a lot of work. I think I would direct members of the boating community who wonders what RYAS does with their subscriptions to read the document.”

Overview of RYA Scotland Response

RYA Scotland has no particular view on the devolution of powers if, and provided that, any agency or body controlling the seabed continues to uphold and vindicate the public right of navigation (including anchoring) and the public use of the foreshore.

Similarly, we understand the benefits of further devolution to local authorities where there is an established competence in the management of marine assets as in the case of Orkney and Shetland

However, we do have concerns about the proposed further devolution or decentralisation of the exercise of these powers to local levels where there is as yet no established competence to implement or manage the complex and interconnected interests around what are currently Crown Estate assets in Scotland and, while we know that some other Local Authorities have qualified staff for dealing with marine matters, we believe additional staff would be needed.

In light of the current economic circumstances, we are concerned that the bodies receiving these new powers may not have the financial or staff resource to properly discharge their duties in respect to marine seabed and foreshore management with the required degree of competence.  We perceive a degree of interest from parties who have only noted the financial return from managing these assets and have not understood the associated liabilities. The obligation to maintain the seabed and remove derelict equipment needs to be seen as the corollary of obtaining income from it.

RYA Scotland believes that the current model for seabed management in Scotland has been efficient and cost effective.  We recognise the importance of increased local accountability but have significant concerns that current proposals to decentralise the work of the Crown Estate could lead to a fragmented, inefficient and inconsistent approach to seabed management which may be detrimental to resident maritime users, visitors to our world class cruising waters, public rights of navigation and to the affected coastal communities.

We believe marine licensing should remain the responsibility of Marine Scotland to avoid any perceived conflict of interest between licensing and revenue raising powers and there is a risk that funds available become so diluted that consequent investments have a lower return than would be the case if strategic investments could be managed and funded nationally.

We would favour long term arrangements for the management of Crown Estate assets in Scotland which:

  • maintain the public right of navigation (including anchoring) and the public use of the foreshore,
  • provide a national body to oversee a framework of policy and practice which guides local decision making,
  • maintains service provision at reasonable and uniform cost,
  • engages the full range of stakeholders (including communities of interest) and
  • provide a process for appeals and or complaints relating to actions taken or not taken by a body managing Crown Estate assets

The full  RYA Scotland formal response is available here. The RYA Scotland response must be read alongside the full consultation document (https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/crown-estate-strategy-unit/long-term-management-of-the-crown-estate/ ) to keep our answers in context.