On Thursday this week, Stirling Councillors meet to decide the fate of the King’s Park (item 19 on agenda). This is the first time the new Council has the opportunity to consider the plans developed by the last council. For a critique of these see this post and for background documents see here.

Since then, the historic importance of the site has been affirmed by a group of leading historians including the Historiographer Royal, Professor Chris Smout. The UK government has also responded to the recommendations of the Scottish Affairs Committee report (see quoted extracts here) and ruled out the transfer on the flimsiest of grounds. In its report of 10 July 2012, it claims at para 7.6 that,

The King’s Park, Stirling cannot, however, be among these. After lengthy negotiations, the Crown Estate recently agreed a market price for its sale to Stirling Council, so transfer at nil cost would be incompatible with the Crown Estate’s statutory responsibilities.

What this argument in fact reveals is that in fact it is only because Stirling Council agreed in the past to raid the Common Good Fund and buy the King’s Park that the UK Government and the CEC can even make this argument.
The straightforward answer for Stirling Council is to take the deal off the table on Thursday. Then proper negotiations can take place with a view to transferring the site to Scottish Ministers – discussions which, as this letter reveal, are already underway.
UPDATE 1019hrs 12 October 2012 – I understand that the Council has voted to defer any decision.

Further to my previous blog on the future prospects for Donald trump’s golf course (scroll down to see it), I am delighted to publish some photographs which illustrate Point 2 – that the Menie dunes will keep moving. These photographs were taken by Sue Edwards in December 2011 and show sand blown onto the tees of the 5th hole. These are of course quite minor blows but there have been 3 similar events this year alone.

This follows erosion at Hole 3 which has involved engineering works to stabilise the green. Interestingly, the works were undertaken partially on land below the High Water mark – land which Trump does not own. I am making inquiries about what the Crown Estate Commissioners know abut this. Further details about this incident can be seen in paras 31-37 of this MEMAG meeting of 11 April 2011.

Today, the UK Government published its response to the final Report of the Scottish Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Crown Estate in Scotland. The SAC Inquiry was the most detailed evidence-based investigation into how the Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC) operate in Scotland and whether the property rights and interests that comprise the Crown Estate in Scotland should continue to be administered by that particular body.

The report concluded that it should not and that the CEC’s responsibilities for administering the marine and ancient rights of the Crown in Scotland should be terminated and devolved and further decentralised.

The UK Government has rejected these recommendations and, instead, said that Scotland can look after wild oysters and mussels if it likes and that additional ancient assets to the 25 transferred at no consideration in 1999 (Edinburgh Castle etc.) could be considered – such as part of West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh(1). King’s Park in Stirling, however is off the agenda because Stirling Council have negotiated a purchase price! Presumably, had they not done so, King’s Park (Scotland’s ancient Royal Park), could also have been transferred.

What the report plays down (and the CEC has always conveniently ignored) is the fact that properties such as King’s Park and the seabed are already Scottish public land owned by the Crown in Scotland. The CEC and the UK Government argue that the Commissioners should continue to be the arbiter of the fate of such places as the administrators of Scottish public land and the CEC have published details of how they intend to respond here. Others, including the overwhelming majority of respondents to the Scottish Affairs Committee Inquiry take a different view.

Time for Plan B.

(Background material to the recent debate over the future of the Crown Estate can be found under “Hot Topics/Crown Estate”)

(1) Background to Princes Street Gardens can be found in Annex 8 of the Crown Estate Review Working Group report. My own transcript of the 1818 Agreement can be read here.