Reform Scotland

The Crown Estate: yet another quango

Think tank’s briefing published ahead of today’s evidence session to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has published a briefing paper in which it calls on the Scottish Government to resist the creation of a new quango for the Crown Estate powers due to be devolved to Scotland. The briefing also urges the Government to set out a timetable for the Crown Estate powers to be devolved to local authorities, as was envisaged by the Smith Commission.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the interim arrangements for managing the Crown Estate responsibilities in Scotland following their devolution to the Scottish Parliament. Although admitting in its consultation that the powers could be kept in-house, the Scottish Government is instead proposing to set up a quango to manage the responsibilities.

Reform Scotland has published several briefings which outline the perils of government by quango. The think-tank believes the quango culture is not open, transparent or fully accountable. In this latest briefing – The Crown Estate: yet another quango – has also expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government has not set out a timetable for devolving the powers in full to local authorities.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne, said:

“The devolution of the Crown Estate powers is an important moment for Scotland’s evolving governance, and we need to get it right. In that spirit, we are extremely concerned at the Scottish Government’s stated aim to create another quango to manage it.

“Given that the management arrangement is designed only to be temporary, with powers passing to local authorities in time, the creation of a quango makes even less sense.

“The consultation makes it clear that the Scottish Government intends to appoint members of the proposed quango, as well as having the power to direct the body in the exercise of its functions.

“Given this, the powers should pass directly to Scottish Ministers, remaining the direct responsibility of the Scottish Government until it can be devolved to local authorities. This would enable the retention of an accountable, transparent and open link to the electorate.

“The Crown Estate should not be devolved to a new quango. It is unnecessary and would lead to unaccountability. We already have far too many quangos, and setting up another one is the last thing the Scottish Government should be doing.”

Commenting on the timetable for passing the powers to local authorities, Alison Payne said:

“It is regrettable that there is no indication in the consultation of when the Scottish Government is aiming to reach a long-term solution of passing the powers to local authorities. Reform Scotland believes that it should happen ahead of the next election at the latest. The interim solution should only be a very short-term one to allow for the devolution of the Crown Estate to a single entity, as stipulated in the Scotland Act 2016.

“Reform Scotland believes that the powers should be transferred to the relevant local authorities as soon as possible after the transfer date. In order for this to be achieved, we would urge the Scottish Government to start the necessary consultation to begin that process.”