What about the other half?

The news that half of the revenue from the marine part of the Crown Estate is to be given to coastal communities is a significant step in the right direction, and I think we should give the ConDem government in Westminster some credit for that.

The most significant aspect of the decision is that this money will be distributed within the country from which the revenues were generated, although in the case of Scotland the Highlands and Islands and the remainder of Scotland will be treated separately. The total revenue from the marine part of the Crown Estate was £47.4m last year, and this table from the Treasury press release shows the breakdown:

Wales ... £2.3m (4.9%)
England ... £36.4m (76.8%)
Northern Ireland ... £0.9m (1.9%)
Scotland, Highlands and Islands ... £3.7m (7.8%)
Rest of Scotland ... £4.1m (8.6%)

UK total ... £47.4m

It's also interesting to note the breakdown of that revenue by activity:

Dredging ... £15.5m (32.7%)
Coastal ... £14.3m (30.2%)
Cables/pipelines ... £11.5m (24.3%)
Renewables ... £3.5m (7.4%)
Aquaculture ... £2.6m (5.5%)

Crown Estate Annual Report, 2011

As we can see, renewables currently accounts for a quite a small percentage of the marine revenue, but this will increase dramatically as the next round of offshore windfarms is developed.

Previously the Crown Estate had operated a Marine Communities Fund worth between £500,000 and £600,000 a year, which I'm sure they thought was very generous. The new Coastal Communities Fund will distribute forty times more of the money, and I'm sure the Tories and LibDems think that they are now being even more generous.

But when you go into a pub and order a pint of beer, what would you think of a landlord who drank half of it himself and then gave you the half empty glass? Are we expected to thank him for only drinking half of it?

     

It's very easy to be "generous" with someone else's money. The issue of principle is that the revenue generated from leasing and granting various rights for activities in Welsh waters doesn't belong to anyone other than ourselves. It should be for us to set the terms on under which our marine resources are are used, and what the revenue generated will be used for.

So let's give the Tories and LibDems in Westminster some credit for not drinking the whole pint and leaving us with just the dregs, which is what Labour had done when they were in power there. Acknowledging the principle that revenue from marine resources should rightly be apportioned to the country where that revenue is generated is a big step in the right direction, and has set a precedent which will make the remaining steps that much easier.

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5 comments:

Siônnyn said...

I have to say that this announcement caught me, and I suspect most people, by surprise. The SNP have been making all the running on crown estates issue - I don't think Carwyn is even aware that it exists - and for London to cede the principle of devolved countries being due a portion of the revenues that are generated off their shores is quite staggering. Have we been wrong about the Tories all along? Are they perhaps sincere in their pursuit of localisms - and by extension, maximum devolution?

But now, as well as a share of the revenues, we need to demand control over what is built off our shores.

So the queen gets 15% of the revenues, we get 50%, leaving the exchequer with 35%. Do they know that?

Also, the queen will keep her share of any accumulation in the profits, but is protected from any diminution. We must demand the same protection for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Sionnyn;
I think we in Wales ARE wrong about the Conservative party. If we ignore the miners, a modern Tory Government is actually good for Wales (particularly the north and on the language side) in contrast to the Labour party. I think the reason is because Labour takes the Valleys for granted (and rightfully so) and don't bother giving them anything.

Personally from a devolution aspect, I think this is the best UK Gov we've had- if only Plaid had been in Government I think the devolution train would travel much faster along with the current con-dem UK Gov.

Siônnyn said...

It is certainly true that the Welsh Language has done much better under the Tories in the past - even Thatcher - the Welsh Language act and S4C, for instance - as they don't have the atavistic valleys MPs to appease.

I agree that it is a pity Plaid are no longer in government, but I do think that, now, it would be a big mistake to prop up the labour government before the next election. Labour have nothing to offer us - Carwyn is making concessions (tax raising powers) already, and looking weak in the process - so what could we achieve by sharing in his failure to 'Stand up for Wales'? Far better to position ourselves as the soundly Welsh alternative in 2006.

Anonymous said...

There is the small matter that it was Labour that legislated for devolution in 1997 when the Tories opposed it.

Admittedly, because of nationalist pressure and to try and head off nationalism, but the same goes for S4C and the language act. They weren't gifts for Wales but were the result of strong campaigning.

There is time for the Con-Dems to be the best government we've had in terms of devolution but so far there has not been delivery: £2.3m per year is nice but it pales into comparison with the hundreds of millions per year which they are starving us of. They also have not shown willingness to transfer any powers to Wales, when under Labour a succession of powers were transferred even prior to the referendum. It would be an error to overlook the Tories' unionist agenda just because Labour are awful.

Anon is right that nationalism in Wales needs to be alot stronger for the Con-Dems to move things forward, as we will see with the ap Calman inquiry.

MH said...

While I think we should give the Tories and LibDems some credit, I think we should also be careful not to give them too much credit. In political terms, this was just a ploy to head off Scottish demands that all of the Crown Estate marine revenue generated in Scotland should go to Scotland. The ConDem coalition thought that they could quieten those demands by going half way, but were equally anxious not to give the Scottish Parliament control over the money. That's why we have the awkward and inept mechanism of the money going to community projects approved by the National Lottery rather than the decision being made democratically.

To be honest, I think it was almost by accident that Wales and Northern Ireland were included. I'm sure that if Cheryl Gillan or David Jones had been aware of it before it was announced, they would have opposed it ... although that isn't what they'll say now. But in fact it doesn't really make a lot of difference to Wales in terms of money, for our 4.9% is pretty much equal (in fact a little below) what we would have got if the revenue had been distributed on the usual basis through public spending. But Wales' share should increase as we have parts of two of the nine Round 3 windfarm zones.

But even though this is a relatively pleasant surprise, the Tories have in fact opened a much wider "can of worms" that I don't believe they have really thought about. For if Scottish communities are entitled to half of this revenue, then applying the same principle should mean that Scottish communities are entitled to half the revenue income from oil and gas in the Scottish sector of the North Sea ... which would be billions of pounds, rather than just millions. If I were the SNP, I would now be making this point very loudly indeed.

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And that, as I see it, is typical of the ad hoc way devolution has worked. Neither Labour nor the Tories have ever come up with a coherent plan for what they see as a long-term constitutional settlement. Labour's version of devolution was what suited Labour. It has been lop-sided and not properly thought through. The Tories and LibDems will now try and re-balance that by adding what is in their interests. For Wales in particular that means a greater degree of financial accountability, and improving an electoral system that gives the Labour party an unfair share of seats relative to their share of the vote.

That's fine. Like riding a bicycle, we won't get very far by just pushing down on the left pedal; we have to use the pedal on the right as well. Devolution would not have progressed much further under Labour, but will now move forward with the Tories and LibDems putting their weight on the right pedal. But of course, after they've done their bit, it will be time to push down on the left pedal again.

In short, we need to be clever and use both Labour and the Tories to further our nationalist agenda.

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