Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in Edinburgh was the Crown Estate’s most valuable assets in Scotland and despite repeated requests in the run up to the Scotland Bill in 2016, the UK government refused to devolve the site along with other Crown Estate assets in Scotland.
Within two years of refusing to devolve the site to Crown Estate Scotland, they have cashed in by selling the site to London-based M&G Estates for an astonishing £167 million. And even more astonishing is the fact that not one single penny of that is set to come to Scotland.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow that Crown Estate Scotland is looking to sell off assets, including a tenanted farm in Fochabers in my own constituency of Moray, to raise funds to invest in its portfolio. Selling assets like this may not have been necessary if the UK government had originally agreed to designate Fort Kinnaird as a Scottish asset.
Had this site been devolved, the Scottish Government could have reinvested such a huge windfall in transforming Crown Estate sites across the country, including Glenlivet and Fochabers Estates, and villages and harbours in my constituency, and indeed many other sites across Scotland.
The UK government no doubt wants this shady cash grab kept below the radar – but Scotland is simply being conned. And it is outrageous that the millions of pounds made from the sale of this Edinburgh site is apparently being spent in Cheltenham.
Just two years ago UK Ministers refused Scottish Government requests to devolve this site to the new Crown Estate Scotland, and it’s now clear that there are 167 million reasons why.
The value of the Fort Kinnaird site represents 60 per cent of the total assets of Crown Estate Scotland and I’m calling for the UK government to ensure that Scotland receives the full £167 million it is owed.
And the good news is that the Scottish Government is now set to intervene in response to my call for the UK Treasury to reinvest the £167 million proceeds from the sale of Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in the Scottish Crown Estate.
This money would be transformational in helping Crown Estate Scotland support our communities in Moray and the more rural and coastal areas of Scotland.
There should be no question where the £167 million revenue from the sale of this land in Edinburgh belongs, and I am glad the Scottish Government is taking this to the Conservative Government.
It is now abundantly clear why, two years ago, Tory ministers refused Scottish Government requests to devolve this site to the new Crown Estate Scotland.
This is nothing short of asset stripping and the Tory government needs to play fair and give Scotland the £167 million it is owed.
Richard Lochhead is MSP for Moray.