Forgive me for continuing this thread on Scotland’s seabed but I’ve just caught sight of an interview on 16th March with Alex Salmond about Scotland’s marine renewables potential. Now I think that the progress made with marine renewables is very exciting but we’re not going to maximise the benefits of this industry if we don’t control our own seabed.
Alex Salmond claims that these announcements mean that “Scotland rules the waves” (0:26 min). He reminds us that his “claim that the Pentland Firth is the Saudi Arabia of tidal power is about to come to fruition” (2:47). And he goes on at some length about the benefits to local communities in the Highlands and Islands (2:54). This is all fine and dandy but why does the SNP Government not follow through the logic of its position and ensure that local communities around Scotland’s coasts control the seabed and foreshore and thus have a real stake in the development of this important industry? Why is such a valuable part of Scotland’s public land still under the control of a London based property company – the Crown Estate Commission?In the recent Independence White Paper, the Scottish Government point out that the governance of marine resources remains unsatisfactory. “Despite recent agreements the underlying fragmented nature of responsibilities does pose a risk to the successful management of marine issues, for example supporting the emerging wind and tidal energy industry in Scottish waters.” (White Paper para 5.9)In paragraph 5.15 the SNP government admits that, despite some minor changes in the relationship between the CEC and the Scottish parliament, “the more significant issue â€“ that revenues collected from Scottish coastal businesses by the Crown Estate bring very little visible benefit to Scotland â€“ would remain.”But Scotland’s seabed is public land under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament – it could do something about these issues tomorrow if it wished. Why won’t it?To add to my frustration with this whole story, the Scottish Government has today published a consultation paper on the geographic areas to be included in the next round of seabed leases that will qualify for the Saltire Prize. In it, it repeats the fiction that “The Crown Estate owns virtually the entire UK seabed” (pg 2). As my post of March 18th makes clear IT DOES NOT! Why is the Government continuing to parade this fiction?