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Crown Estate

Volume 577: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2014

1. When he plans to respond to the fifth report from the Scottish Affairs Committee on the Crown Estate, HC 889. (903078)

I welcome the Committee’s continued interest in the Crown Estate’s activities in Scotland and the publication of its latest report. I am working on the UK Government response with colleagues in HM Treasury and we will publish it as soon as possible.

Does the Secretary of State agree that this is indeed a fine report, which should be accepted in full by the Government? In particular, does he accept the proposal that the devolution of powers from London should be not simply to the black hole that is Edinburgh, but to the local communities and authorities of the highlands and islands of Scotland?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman because, under his stewardship, the Scottish Affairs Committee has become one of the most productive Committees in the House. He knows that I have a particular interest in this issue. He highlights one of the real challenges facing us. People in our island and coastal communities have seen power and influence systematically stripped away by the Scottish Government since they took power in 2007. I do not see any particular attraction in replacing a centralised system from London with a centralised system in Edinburgh.

A social enterprise has bought the Ardroy outdoor education centre in my constituency, but it needs to acquire from the Crown Estate the rights to a sewage pipe over the foreshore. After months of legal correspondence and thousands of pounds of legal bills, the matter is still not sorted out. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to help resolve the problem?

Unfortunately, my hon. Friend highlights a constituency case of the sort that has been all too familiar to me over the years. In fact, in many ways, it makes the case for the need for reform. I would be more than happy to meet him and his constituents and assist them in any way that is open to me.

It is now nearly three years since all three UK parties were resoundingly defeated by the Scottish National party. In those three years, there was plenty of time for the coalition Government and indeed the official Opposition to consider further devolution, including that advocated by the Scottish Affairs Committee. Will the Minister confirm whether they will or will not publish a comprehensive joint devolution proposal?

The hon. Gentleman will get the Government’s response at the same time as everyone else, but he cannot get away from the fact that his Government in Edinburgh have systematically stripped power, influence and accountability away from island and coastal communities. They are not to be trusted with this.

The coalition parties and the official Opposition have spent the past three years expressing nothing but groundless, relentless negativity about the future of Scotland. They have dubbed it “project fear”. The Conservative party said that it had a line in the sand and that there would be no further devolution. The Labour party is proposing even less than a few years ago, and the Liberal Democrats are in favour of federalism in a lopsided model that will never ever work. Why should the electorate believe a single word of any of the three parties on the issue of devolution—

It is not lost on the House that the hon. Gentleman’s question has absolutely nothing to do with the Crown Estate. My constituents and those of other hon. Members representing coastal and island communities will no doubt conclude that that is simply because his Government do not care about them.