SCOTLAND Office minister Lord Dunlop has agreed to meet local councillors to hear their views on devolving Crown Estate powers to the Scottish islands.
The commitment came after former northern isles MP Jim Wallace, now Lord Wallace of Tankerness, raised the issue during a debate on the Scotland Bill in the House of Lords this week.
Lord Wallace was proposing the “double devolution” of Crown Estate assets to local authorities as agreed by the Smith Commission on further powers for the Scottish Parliament.
He proposed an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would see onward transfer of powers to the islands no later than one year after initial devolution to Holyrood.
He added that there were concerns about the Scottish government’s commitment to further devolution.
The Scottish government has promised to give the income from the Crown Estate to local authorities, while it retains management control and ownership of the seabed.
Lord Wallace said: “The communities of the islands would be far better at managing these local marine resources themselves.
“This is an opportunity genuinely to give substance to localism and promote the sustainable use of the marine resource, not least with regard to aquaculture and renewable energy.”
After the debate he said he expected Lord Dunlop to meet with island council leaders before the Scotland Bill returns to the House of Lords for the next stage of its passage.
He said he would be arranging for his fellow peers to be briefed by the island authorities, a number of whom were sympathetic to further devolution.
“I firmly intend to pursue this idea further,” he pledged.
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