Scotland will never be the Saudi Arabia of marine energy while seabed rent goes south. So says Andy Wightman, the author of Who Owns Scotland?
Andy has a letter in today's Herald about the 10 wave and tidal energy projects announced this week. Scotland is said to have about a quarter of Europe's wind and marine energy potential. But, as well as any taxable profits going straight to the London treasury, another cut goes to the Crown Estates who do not actually "own" the seabed. They only administer the property rights. The seabed is Crown land, but that doesn't mean it belongs to The Queen. In fact it is a type of public land under Scots law. Andy points out that it is "within the competence" of the Scottish parliament to transfer title from The Crown to Scottish ministers. He wonders why an SNP government has not already done this. He concludes: "if, as Alex Salmond has claimed, Scotland's seas make us the Saudi Arabi of marine power, why is Scottish crown land being administered by a property company in London to whom all the rents will flow?" Why indeed. What does Mr Salmond's environment minister Roseanna aka "Republican Rose" Cunningham think?
But if the SNP government decided to move on this, would they get support from the opposition? They ought to. I seem to remember some Labour and Liberal Democrat activists joining a campaign against the Crown Estates 20 years ago when the organisation attempted to hike up the mooring rental for Scottish boat owners. Brian Wilson the former minister and MP, and these days a great advocate of renewable energy, supported that campaign in his capacity as publisher of The West Highland Free Press. In fact, I seem to remember the mooring holders ran a civil disobedience campaign of non-payment similar to the anti-poll tax movement of the time.
Andy Wightman's lettter to The Herald along with others on the subject can be read here
His personal website can be located here