Thursday, October 25, 2007

Crown Estate urges Parliament to stay out of it's business

Transparency is good for some but not for others, and the Crown Estate certainly doesn't want too much transparency ...

The Herald reports :

Crown Estate urges MSPs ‘not to intervene’ in operation

ROBBIE DINWOODIE, Chief Scottish Political Correspondent

The body that serves as landlord for Crown property in Scotland faces a review by MSPs after its leading figures appeared at Holyrood yesterday.

The chairman of the Crown Estate, Ian Grant, who is also its Scottish Commissioner, pleaded yesterday with members of the Rural Development Committee not to intervene in the way it operates.

He claimed that handing over its estates or seaboard portfolio to anyone else, such as local authorities, would force them to buy in the expertise to operate them and would not be cost-effective.

But his pleas are likely to fall on deaf ears with SNP, Labour and LibDem members of the committee more convinced than ever that the body has failed to replicate in its own structures the devolution settlement in the UK.

Mr Grant offered to report to the committee on an annual basis, but insisted that the current structure was good for Scotland because it gave access to capital investment drawn from a UK-wide organisation.

Criticism of the Crown Estate came earlier this month when councillors from six councils in the Highland area as well as Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the local authority umbrella group Cosla told the committee of a "quite extraordinary" lack of accountability. Mr Grant today insisted it had a good record and said it had acknowledged the need to put its message across better. He told Tory MSP John Scott: "We believe the Crown Estate is operating in a beneficial way for Scotland."

But LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles questioned why the body raised more money than it spent in Scotland, and convener Roseanna Cunningham said the three senior officials who were present yesterday appeared to have "a Westminster mindset".

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