Fort Kinnaird retail park ‘exempt from devolution’

WITH revenues from the Crown Estate set to be devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Government can look forward to reaping the benefit from all its vast holdings across the country, from acres of highland forestry land to hundreds of miles of foreshore.

Friday, 26th June 2015, 12:21 pm
Fort Kinnaird would become a Westminster-controlled 'satellite' under the UK Government's plans. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

All, that is, except a retail park on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

In an arrangement resembling an embassy or Indian reservation casino, Fort Kinnaird will effectively become an inland island off the Edinburgh bypass, with revenue continuing to flow to the UK Government thanks to a barely noticed clause in devolution proposals.

Edinburgh residents who browse the latest fashions at New Look, grab a burger at Five Guys or take in a Hollywood blockbuster at the Odeon multiplex will be contributing to the UK’s coffers – not those controlled by the Scottish Government.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Alison Johnstone, who sits on Holyrood's Devolution committee, quizzed David Mundell over the plans. Picture: Contributed

The most politically conscious Scots could end up feeling quite conflicted about a weekend trip to the shops.

The existence of “Treasury Island” was confirmed during questioning by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s devolution committee by Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who said the shopping centre will become the only site in Scotland owned by the Crown Estate which will be exempt from devolution.

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said it was “ludicrous” that the shopping centre in the former mining village of Newcraighall would become “a satellite of the Treasury”.

Under the terms of the Scotland Bill, management and revenue of the Crown Estate in Scotland would be devolved, but Westminster is proposing a complicated Treasury-run transfer scheme that exempts “property, rights or interests held by a limited partnership”.

Ms Johnstone said: “Fort Kinnaird is a money-maker for the Treasury and it’s notable that the UK Government wants to exempt it from devolution of the Crown Estate as agreed by the Smith Commission.

“I’m sure most of us in the Edinburgh area familiar with Fort Kinnaird will find it ludicrous that it is destined to become a satellite of the Treasury rather than under Scottish control like the rest of Crown Estate land in Scotland. It is illogical and inconsistent; it cannot go unresolved.”

Mr Mundell said he did not believe the scheme was “unnecessarily complex”.

But he added: “As the scheme goes forward in conjunction between the Treasury and the Scottish Government, there will be an opportunity for further discussion and analysis of that.”

Finance Secretary John Swinney said Fort Kinnaird was an economic asset in Scotland and it should be part of the devolved arrangement. That to me is the only logical conclusion that can be arrived at from the Crown Estate. I don’t see how it can be argued any other way.

“From the Scottish Government point of view, it is illogical and inconsistent for Fort Kinnaird to be somehow exempt from the Crown Estates assets and functions in Scotland.”

Fort Kinnaird is owned by The Gibraltar Partnership Ltd - split equally between the Crown Estate and the Hercules Unit Trust, which also owns Gallagher Retail Park in Cheltenham.

The latest Crown Estate accounts suggest that it received an £8.4m share of income from the two sites for year ended March 2015.