‘Outrageous that Crown Estate is devolved to Scotland and not Wales’ says Welsh minister
A Welsh minister has said it is “completely outrageous” that the Crown Estate is devolved to Scotland, but not to Wales.
Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change hit out at the UK Government for its refusal to hand over control of royal profits that have been generated in Wales, to the Senedd.
The Crown Estate is a collection of lands and holdings in the United Kingdom belonging to the British monarch. It holds the rights to seabeds around the British Isles.
The Crown Estate in Wales generated £8.7 million in revenue last year, which went into the coffers of the UK Treasury because it is still controlled by Westminster. It’s marine portfolio in Wales is valued £549.1 million.
The minister was responding to a question from Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell, who pointed out that the Scottish Government has been able to generate £700 million for its public coffers by auctioning options on seabeds controlled by the Crown Estate in Scotland for the development of renewable energy.
However, Wales is prevented by Westminster from doing something similar.
Plaid Cymru Senedd member Delyth Jewell said: “Diolch, Llywydd. Minister, the Crown Estate in Wales generated £8.7 million in revenue last year, and the valuation of the estate’s Welsh marine portfolio has increased from £49.2 million to £549.1 million.
“These are resources that could enable Wales to develop our Welsh renewable energy industry, and retain wealth to fund Welsh public services instead of selling off precious assets to the highest foreign bidder.
“This month, Scotland auctioned 17 options of seabed, totalling 25 GW through Crown Estate Scotland, and that led to an extra £700 million for Scotland’s public finances, based on sustainable development. Wales can’t do this, because the Crown Estate isn’t devolved.
“So, you said in the past, Minister, that you support its devolution, but there needs to be movement on this, or we risk hampering our attempts to develop the marine and offshore renewables industry, which, of course, is a key aspect of reaching the net-zero target.
“Could you set out what steps, please, you’re taking to seek the devolution of the Crown Estate to Wales, and also share you view about what the process should be in place to ensure that, where there are areas where the Welsh Government and the Senedd agree they should be devolved, those are devolved, so that we keep in line with the democratic wishes of the people of Wales?”
‘Go straight back to HM Treasury’
Julie James replied: “Absolutely, Delyth. I completely agree that the Crown Estate should be devolved to Wales. It’s completely outrageous that it’s devolved to Scotland and not to us, and that, indeed, the returns from the Crown Estate go straight back to HM Treasury.
“They don’t even go through the Barnett formula arrangement. So, I have absolutely written to say that we want the Crown Estates devolved, and we want them devolved on the same basis as they are devolved in Scotland.
“However, in the meantime, and in the absence of a government at UK level who seems likely to do that in the foreseeable future, in the meantime, we have also sought to develop a very good relationship with the Crown Estates.
“So, both myself and Lee Waters have met with the Crown Estates to discuss the various potential in the Celtic sea and around the Welsh coast, where Crown Estate land is involved, and, also, actually, on land as well. So, Crown Estates own some land in Wales too.
“We’ve also engaged with them to make sure that we have as much of community ownership, community benefit strand in the auctions that they are conducting, although the money goes, as you say, back to the Treasury. So far, we’ve had an engaged and reasonable reception from them, although that’s no substitute, I absolutely agree, for having the thing devolved to us.”
After being questioned on the subject in the House of Commons, the Westminster-appointed Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said: “The relationship that the Crown Estate enjoys with the UK Government, the Welsh Government and stakeholders works very well.
“I do not think there is any public interest or appetite for altering the terms of that arrangement.”
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