Coastal towns and villages in line for funding boost

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berwickshire’s coastal communities have a chance to share in a new fund set up to encourage economic development.

Villages along the Berwickshire coast were once dependent on fishing for their survival but this has become less so in recent times and a share of the £4 million being made available from April 2012 to towns and villages along the Scottish coastline could be a lifeline for many of them.

The fund will be around 50% of the money raised each year by the Crown Estate’s marine activities. Crown Estate Commissioners in Scotland manage the sea bed up to 12 miles from shore as well as the foreshore and some on-land assets.

Scotland is estimated to have around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal resource, 10 per cent of European wave energy potential and the EU’s largest capacity for offshore storage of carbon dioxide.

And this new fund aims to help with a wide range of projects, including those that involve charities, the environment, education and health.

Communities will bid for a share and the Government is currently in discussions with the Big Fund, part of the Big Lottery Fund.

Following the announcement, Borders MP Michael Moore said: “The Crown Estate has been the subject of much debate in Scotland recently and this is a very positive step to directly linking the marine revenue it raises to coastal areas.

“Over the past year I have been working closely with the Eyemouth Harbour Trust and local businesses to ensure that the community benefits from opportunities arising from offshore renewable developments off its coast.

“This fund is another way offshore projects can provide a boost to coastal communities like Eyemouth, as 50% of the money raised by the developments will be spent supporting local initiatives.

“In Scotland the fund will be worth around £4m in 2012 and I will be working hard to make sure organisations in the Borders participate in the bidding process so they can benefit from this funding.”

Examples of projects expected to receive support from the fund could include developing renewable energy, improving skills or environmental safeguarding or improvement.

Across the UK there will be £23.7 million available in the Coastal Communities Fund come next April.

This is based on a 50 per cent share of the £47.4 million revenue raised by the Crown Estate’s marine activities in 2010-11.

Announcing the new funding the UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury , Danny Alexander said: “I am delighted to announce a new multi-million pound fund that will support coastal communities across the UK.

“Coastal Communities share a strong sense of place and it is only fair that we share the Crown Estate’s revenues equally.

“We welcome innovative bids from charities, businesses, social enterprises and local organisations, which support the economic development of the community.”

The fund will open for business in April 2012. Further details on how to apply to the fund will be published shortly.

However, Scottish Environment Minister Richard Lochhead doesn’t feel that the fund goes far enough and criticised the UK Government’s response to the SNP party’s call for the Crown Estate to be devolved and under the control of the Scottish Government.

Mr Lochhead said the coastal communities funds ‘fall well short of the need for fundamental reform of how the Crown Estate in Scotland is managed’.

He added: “The Scottish Government and many others have been pressing the UK for full devolution of the Crown Estate in Scotland, so that local communities can receive substantial benefits from the offshore renewable energy opportunities being exploited on their doorsteps.

“This was a key election issue, and has since been endorsed by the Scottish Parliament.

“It is good that the UK Government has finally woken up to these demands - however this measure does not go nearly far enough.

“Scotland should benefit from 100 per cent of Crown Estate revenues, not 50 per cent.

“Full devolution of Crown Estate would give the people of Scotland a say in how public assets are used, rather than leaving decisions to the unelected commissioners who manage the Crown Estate.

“In recent months we have provided the Secretary of State for Scotland (Borders MP Michael Moore) with two detailed papers setting out the clear and rational case for change.

“However, despite this, Scottish Ministers were not consulted on these latest, timid proposals. If UK Ministers had had the courtesy to do so they would have been informed that these proposals are clearly inadequate.

“Under these plans Crown Estate revenues would still go south to Her Majesty’s Treasury, with Scotland only getting half of our entitlement.

“However, were the Scottish Government and Parliament to have full control of the Crown Estate, we would go much further by investing revenues directly back in to local communities.

“Contrary to the spirit of self-government, Crown Estate Commissioners grant offshore leases and can even sell off the seabed, all without any requirement to consult the Scottish Parliament.

“Our progressive plans for the Crown Estate have cross-party support, the support of Scotland’s Parliament, and are designed to benefit local communities while helping Scotland meet our challenging green energy goals. Scotland cannot be side-tracked in these aims by this timid measure from Westminster.”

Finance Secretary John Swinney agreed with this sentiment saying: “This is Scotland’s money, and devolving full responsibility for the Crown Estate and its revenues to the Scottish Parliament is vital if Scotland is to make the most of our vast offshore renewable energy potential.”