Friday, 23 July 2010

Gibson attacks Feudal style Crown Estate

News release
Immediate release

The Crown Estate cost Highland and Orkney councils a combined cost of over £80,000 last year whilst one Port Authority has been charged on average £24,000 a year by the Crown Estate since 2003.

The figures have come to light following an investigation by North SNP MSP Rob Gibson who said that the taxes of the Crown Estate amounted to a feudal tax and an attack or coastal communities and livelihoods.

Mr Gibson wrote to all harbour owners and pier owners in the Highlands, Orkney and Moray to inquire about how much they were paying to the Crown Estate and what dealings they had had with them.

He received several telling responses in which were detailed the charges imposed on them by the Crown Estates. It emerged that Orkney Islands Council paid out £61,851 last year which included charges for buildings which are situated on a pier.

The Crown Estate even charged a lease for the seabed for St Margaret's Hope Pier.

The cost to Highland Council came in at £18,883, whilst Scrabster Harbour trust  was charged on average £24,000 a year since 2003.

People's dealings with the crown estate painted the organisaion in a bad light too. One respondent said that they had 'nothing positive' to report about their dealings with the Crown Estate, they continued that they pay rent for life line and marine services which are crucial to the financial well being of the area yet receive nothing in return.

One other said that whilst they had reasonable relations with the Crown Estate ultimately they were only interested in how much money they could get. Others said that they were grateful to have no dealings with them at all.  

A long standing critic of the Crown Estate tax collection Mr Gibson says that the charges from the Crown Estate are excessive and grossly unfair. He referred to it as a feudal tax on growth and improvement .

"I was shocked by the maritime tax that councils and other ports have to pay to the Crown Estates. To echo one response I received, it is purely a tax on infrastructure, growth and improvement. They charge exorbitant fees for such menial tasks as dredging the seabed. To hear that they charge for buildings on top of piers would be laughable if it wasn't so serious."

"The recession is getting worse and Council and others will have to make cuts. I think one cut they should make is by not having to pay the Crown Estate anything. The Crown Estates major remit is to accrue tax for the UK treasury. This money is taken from hard pressed ports and piers around Scotland and disappears. It is not reinvested in the communities or the ports which could improve their facilities therefore creating more opportunities for jobs.

"The Crown Estate's  unaccountability knows no bounds. Ports are vital for the well being of the Highlands and Islands. Marine activities will be crucial for coastal communities to kick start our economic recovery."

"I was interested to learn that if a port, such as Inverness, is situated on a river bed then they pay nothing. I am relieved that the Crown Estate cannot raid Inverness harbour for money but they are happy to do so elsewhere in the North and West."

"Their attitude seems to me to be one feudal landlords of the worst kind who are uncountable. It has to changed."

"The Lib Dems were vociferous when in opposition against the dealings of the Crown Estate. However now they are in power in London and have the chance to change the system (as it is a reserved issue)  they have gone strangely quiet on the subject. I shall be writing to the new Government with these findings to push for the devolution of the Crown Estate.  I know that the Scottish Government has reservations about the Crown Estate too so shall be presenting my findings to Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead."

"This is just a snapshot of what is happening in the north of country, no doubt throughout Scotland the situation is as bad. It cannot be allowed to continue for another financial year."


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