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Opinion

The Crown Estate: violating Wales’ right to profit from its own natural resources

13 Apr 2023 4 minute read
King’s picture by Victoria Jones / PA Wire.

Hayden Williams

International treaties, which the UK government has signed, confirm Welsh arguments that Crown Estate lands in Wales should be devolved — but the Crown Estate doesn’t seem bothered.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) both state that distinct peoples have the right to self-determination, to determine their own political status, and to freely pursue their own economic development.

Among its many clauses, UNDRIP states that indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories.

The ICCPR was brought into effect in 1976, and the UK government agreed in the same year to abide by it. The UK government also formally agreed to honour the principles of UNDRIP in 2007.

Moreover, according to the UK government’s own Statement of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2021:

“The UK Government is fully committed to promoting and protecting human rights for all individuals, including indigenous people, without discrimination on any grounds.”

Though we might think the term ‘indigenous peoples’ only applies to dispossessed minorities in foreign lands (such as Native Americans or Australian Aboriginals), it’s hard to argue the Welsh aren’t indigenous to Wales.

The UN recognises indigenous peoples as “those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means.”

Crown Estate

Wales has lands under Crown Estate control which the Welsh Government has asked to be devolved. Crown Estate lands in Scotland have already been devolved.

If an energy company wants to put a wind farm off the Welsh coast it must effectively pay rent for that space — not to the Welsh government, but to the Crown Estate.

The Crown Estate intends to auction off spaces for these projects this year, and the profits made from ‘rents’ will go to the King (25%) and to the UK Treasury.

The Crown Estate’s press office was therefore asked:

  • Does the Crown Estate agree the Welsh fit the legal definition of an indigenous people (indigenous to Wales)?
  • Why is the retention of Crown Estate lands in Wales not seen as a violation of Welsh rights in accord with the UNDRIP principles or the ICPR?
  • Wouldn’t it be fair to devolve the lands back to Wales so any profit raised from the energy projects could then be put back into Wales via the devolved Welsh government?

The Crown Estate’s communications manager acknowledged receipt of these questions on March 10, and said they would look into it. A week later, they again said they’d follow it up. A month later, there’s still no response.

Welsh Government

The Welsh government press office was asked the same questions and a spokesperson replied that the Welsh government’s case for the devolution of the Crown Estate was not based on UNDRIP or ICPR, but was instead “currently focused on the benefits this would bring [to Wales, if devolved], including for the generation of renewable energy.”

But obviously, at the present time, the benefits are going to the UK government instead, and they apparently have no intention of listening to such arguments. Why give the profit directly to Wales when the ‘benefits’ can instead be siphoned into the UK Treasury?

Injustice

Perhaps Wales will get some of it back, at Westminster’s discretion, but if the recent budget is anything to go by, Wales will as usual get little more than further injustice.

Section 21 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, which deals with the Crown Estate, states that, “If any question arises under this section as to what authority is the appropriate authority in relation to any land, that question is to be referred to the Treasury, whose decision is final.”

So, the UK Treasury benefits (minus the King’s 25% of the annual profits, which amounted to 86.3 million British pounds for the 2021-22 year), and the UK Treasury has the final word in any dispute.

The Welsh Government claims it’s dialoguing with Westminster for the devolution of Crown Lands in Wales. Maybe the argument could be strengthened if the Welsh began seeking international recognition as an indigenous people.

Hayden Williams is a New Zealand based journalist, a member of Plaid Cymru, and a member of the New Zealand Labour Party.


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Rob
Rob
10 months ago

The fact that it is devolved in Scotland and not in Wales is absolute discrimination, and should not be tolerated.

Gareth
Gareth
10 months ago

Why isn’t our Gov pursuing these things through the courts, and using the legal system to force the issue. Complain loudly that we are being discriminated against, with the failure to devolve the Crown Estates , the Tory party are quick enough to play the discrimination card if we try to pass laws here regarding such as the tourist tax and second home rates bill’s, that is soon called anti English and racist .Let’s play these people at their own game, as they did with the internal market bill.At least bee seen to be trying something.

Malcolm Jones
Malcolm Jones
10 months ago

Where were the Welsh labour party when it was passed in parliament to give the crown estate control to Scotland and not too Wales siting on they’re hands has normal and not fighting for Wales

Erisian
Erisian
10 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Jones

Well the Conserbvative and Unionist Party aren’t going to do anything to help Wales.
If you are unghappy with Labour, perhaps you should consider Plaid Cymru – even if you don’t speak Welsh or live in a bro Cymraeg.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
10 months ago

We were illegally occupied in 1282 then annexed by England in 1535, who later stole not only our sovereignty, appropriated our history as theirs , but over the centuries benefitted financially from our natural resources. And if stolen items looted during conflict by former aggressors are duty bound to return what’s not theirs, we Welsh (Cymry) as not only the indigenous people of Wales (Cymru) but of Island of Britain have the birthright not only to self-determination but the moral right to contro and benefit from our natural resources.

Riki
Riki
10 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Nonsense! Wales as a collective people who shared culture, language and identity have been around since atleast the Roman period. And its boundaries were created in 383 and consolidated by King offa of Mercia. Why exactly are people against Wales having been a country a very long time ago? It’s older than Both Scotland and England! It’s because as the Britons, if they didn’t inherit a Country out of the the downsizing of Britain, there is no complaints to be made towards the modern English treatment, who want to rest the entire island off of us. Wales is, and has… Read more »

Rob
Rob
10 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Your point is what exactly?
America didn’t exist as a nation until 1776, Northern Ireland didn’t exist until 1922. In fact how many of the world’s boundaries were determined by European colonisers?

R W
R W
10 months ago

As usual, the English Royal family and UK government betray their determination to shaft Wales as much as they believe they can get away with . Presumably, they think we are too weak and meek to do anything about it!? 😡😡

hdavies15
hdavies15
10 months ago

Go easy on it folks, after all Carlo has a big event to finance next month and he’s got all those unemployed people in his extended family who need kitting out, feeding and housing. While he’s at it maybe he’d like to take care of a few 100,000’s more out in our communities who have real needs.

WelshNatter
WelshNatter
10 months ago

Hayden Williams is a New Zealand based journalist, a member of Plaid Cymru, and a member of the New Zealand Labour Party.

lol

Kate
Kate
10 months ago
Reply to  WelshNatter

What a bunch of moaners. Always what we don’t have.not what we do. Labour have messed up everything..they hate anybody north of Merthyr..about to disfigure mid Wales with pylons and windfarms Complete idiotic politics of envy.

Rob
Rob
10 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Politics of envy is when people sit on their backsides all day doing nothing, and then get resentful towards those who do make a success of their lives. Standing up for Wales & demanding we have the same rights and respect as the other nations of the UK does not qualify as politics of envy. Also if you think Labour have messed things up – then vote them out.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rob
Pmb
Pmb
10 months ago

Nobody cares and really there are more important matters than this .

Rob
Rob
10 months ago
Reply to  Pmb

So why are you commenting on it then?

Dai Peilon
Dai Peilon
10 months ago

WAKE UP WALES
Your government is proposing to carpet Wales with wind turbines and pylons of humungous proportions even though we already provide enough electricity for the Principality. The promoters are foreign invaders masquerading as Welsh companies promising us Welsh jobs, when the reality is that most of the infrastructure comes from Europe. We pay them large subsidies even when the wind is becalmed. Large chunks of grotesque objects, much of it unrecyclable, denigrating our beautiful country and killing our birds and bats; all in the name of saving our planet.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
10 months ago

Given that Hayden has made a very good case of where the law stands, what we need now is for some patriotic resident of Cymru who has fairly deep pockets to bring a legal case. Unfortunately I have neither deep pockets or a legal background but support and am impressed by the Good Law Project. They have achieved a great deal by using the existing law to make the Government do what they shoud have done. You can find them here.

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