NORTHERN isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the government to remove control of the seabed from the Crown Estate.
His comments come one day after his Liberal Democrat colleague, Scottish secretary Michael Moore, announced that the Crown Estate would allow the sale of reclaimed seabed to Lerwick Port Authority.
Mr Carmichael, who is the Liberal Democrats’ senior whip in the Westminster coalition government, welcomed the Crown Estate move and described it as “a policy U-turn”.
However he added that as Scottish secretary, Mr Moore had the power to direct the Crown Estate Commissioners and called on him to go one step further and remove the seabed from their control altogether.
On Monday the Crown Estate said that while it retained ‘a general disposition against the sale of the seabed’, proposals for individual sales of reclaimed land would be considered on a case by case basis.
Prior to his appointment as a government whip, Mr Carmichael had long campaigned against the Crown Estate’s stance, which meant port authorities, marinas and fish farms have all been forced to pay substantial rents into the government’s coffers.
On Tuesday he said: “It is not right that port authorities like Lerwick should be expected to pay substantial annual rent on top of the significant investment they have made in developing the seabed for commercial use.
“This is money that should be retained in our local economy to support jobs and services. Since his appointment as Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore has taken an active interest in this issue.
‘The actions of the Crown Estate have a big impact on the economy of the Northern Isles and I am pleased that we are now finally in a position to help ensure that the commissioners work with local authorities instead of ignoring their concerns, as was too often the case in the past.
‘The Secretary of State for Scotland has a power to direct the Crown Estate commissioners. I hope that he will use that power, or at least the threat of it, to get across to the commissioners that they can no longer ride roughshod over the needs and wishes of island and coastal communities.
‘Using his power of direction should only be the start of this. Ultimately I would like to see control of the seabed removed from the Crown Estate and given to the communities who rely on it.’
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