New (Scottish) Crown Estate CEO ‘trying to mollify Scots with more local management’

Yesterday edition of The Independent – 22nd February – carried a full page feature on Alison Nimmo, the new and Scottish CEO of the controversial publicly owned portfolio of rights and assets,  now worth around £8 billion – and still known as the ‘Crown Estate’.

This no longer belongs to the monarchy but is a public asset managed by public servants known grandly as ‘Crown Estate Commissioners’ and with its profits going to the UK Treasury – around £2 billion in the last ten years.

Chancellor George Osborne discontinued the Civil List, the way the obvious – but no means all – of the public funding of the monarchy has been managed.

He replaced this by viring to the monarchy 15% of the annual profits from the Crown Estate portfolio. In Aril this year, this will deliver to the royal family an uplift of £5 million on last year. This has to be set against swingeing cuts  to public sector services which are seeing, amongst other elements, many clearly disabled people being taken off benefit and pronounced fit to work.

Ms Nimmo went to the Crown Estate portfolio from a role as Design Director with the London Olympic Delivery Authority, giving the go ahead for the venue structures.

The Independent’s article on her was quite revelatory.

‘Accelerating offshore’

Firstly Ms Nimmo made it known emphatically that while the portfolio’s London property assets remain its biggest earner, she intends to gear up its offshore energy activities to overtake and supercede that. She described the issue as ‘how we reinvest and accelerate the growth of offshore’.

The target is to hit a profit of £250 million this year, with offshore energy development a major focus.

This is of great interest to Scotland and to Argyll, with the ‘Crown Estate portfolio’s inclusion of the rights to the Scottish sea bed to the 12 mile limit.

With Argyll, there is, in abeyance for the time being, the prospect of a truly gross offshore wind farm off the little island of Tiree, starting only three miles offshore and occupying an area many times the size of the island itself.

Tiree also faces the additional possibility of two offshore converters, sited  only a few kilometres offshore, each the size of Hampden Park national football stadium.

This would all be grist to the financial mills of the Crown Estate portfolio – based well away in London.

The new CEO would not comment on reports that the aim is to see offshore energy contributing 20% of the portfolio’s in the next 8 years.

She has, however, restructured the management of the portfolio to create an Energy Division which is now separate from the traditional maritime business of ports, harbours and moorings, which now sits in the Rural Division.

She talked of the upcoming third round of licensing of offshore wind farms, mentioning nine partners for the Crown Estate Portfolio in a smash and grab raid on the Moray Firth for which major planning applications are now in.

She also spoke of the 35 winf and tidal energy pilot projects now in Orkney waters, most in the Pentland Firth, saying: ‘If we can get government energy policy behind us then we can get the cost down of offshore and develop a British simply chain out of ports like Hull and the Aberdeens of this world. Then this really starts to be part of the energy strategy for the UK but can really contribute to growth.’  (our emphasesand we are interested in quite what she meant by ‘the Aberdeens of this world’).

 The Scottish issue

This is where a very interesting matter emerged in the article. While the new CEO refused to be drawn on what might happen following a putative vote for Scottish Independence in the October 2014 referendum,it was not discussed in terms of the Scottish elements in the portfolio being handed over to Scotland, as many have assumed would be the case.

It was spoken of as ‘the possible break up’ of the Crown Estate portfolio.

Now on corporate terms, this is a very different prospect.

This terminology would indicate that what is in mind is the possible separate incorporation of a Scottish operation, which would still be free to shift its profits where it likes, via its corporate parent HQ outside Scotland – to the Westminster treasury.

This would be no different from any of the many Scottish businesses owned elsewhere, with their profits going out of the country.

An eye opener for the naive came in the closing paragraphs of the article where Ms Nimmo was described as currently ‘truing to mollify the Scots with more local management’.

Everything about this underlines the essentially patronising attitudes of the metropolis – in this case the certainty that the natives can easily be ‘mollified’ with a few glass beads. All it takes is a little coastal community funding and a few local management roles and  titles to play with and feel important.

The depth of cynicism is everything one would expect; and the old saw about fearing the Greeks bearing gifts could not be more apposite.

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6 Responses to New (Scottish) Crown Estate CEO ‘trying to mollify Scots with more local management’

  1. New (Scottish) Crown Estate?

    Didn’t know there was such a thing.

    No doubt the Queen in her role as ER1 of Scotland and ER2 of England will ensure that monies raised in her name are fairly allocated to the respective treasuries.

    Of course I hear it said by public acclaim.

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  2. Dear Crown Estates…

    Please send Tiree some beads…and we will show you where to stick them.

    nail on the head…foreign owned offshore business using Scotland as a selling point…similar to the name ” Scottish Power” or “Scottish Power Renewables” …surely this is a breach of the TD act ?

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  3. Basically a “Naionalised fiefdom” to benefit the London establishment. After all the M25 was built on North Sea oil receipts so why not “Crown Estates” monies to fund the Birmingham London High speed rail link —Scotland can wait.
    It would be worth voting YES next year if this lot of asset’s strippers for the Crown and (3AAA’s no more) Osbourne were tossed out. Come on political parties announce that such asset’s are used for the local areas minus- a little bit for landlocked counties.

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  4. Quote……” basically the powers that be see us as a property management company where we lease the assets ” and so if they could charge for air and sunlight they would.

    That’s one of the great pleasures of being a subject in the world’s greatest democracy. How could anyone object. Feudal income from fish farms, boat moorings, oil and gas, wind energy et al all for the London treasury. And yes, who says it isn’t the Crown’s sunlight.

    And why not a few beads for Tiree to help them feel lucky and looked after. Of course, of course, I hear everone say, including the Bitter Together vaasals who wouldn’t have it any other way.

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    • More than anything else it’s the charges for boat moorings that amaze me – for anyone living on an island this amounts to a charge on freedom to travel to everywhere else, and it would be great to see it challenged in the European court of human rights.

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  5. Yes Robert, a fee for mooring boats is a splendid example of this anachronism of feudal abuse.

    And yes, a challenge is long overdue both by individual ” subjects ” and by commercial interests too. However, that said, for a people driven out in favour of sheep, it does surprise me how little resistance there is to shelling out a fee to moor a boat.

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