Fort Kinnaird retail park sits in my constituency of Edinburgh Eastern. A buzzing shopping centre, it boasts a great selection of restaurants and cinema screens – attracting 14 million visitors last year alone.
Until June, it was part owned by the UK Crown Estate, which manages a variety of businesses, properties and land assets.
Every Crown Estate property and asset in Scotland were devolved to Crown Estate Scotland two years ago following the Scotland Act 2016 – except for Fort Kinnaird.
Despite repeated requests at the time from the Scottish Government to include Fort Kinnaird on the list of devolved assets, the UK Government refused, ignoring requests to come to Holyrood to discuss the issue.
And following the recent sale of the UK Crown Estate’s share in Fort Kinnaird for £167 million, it is becoming increasingly clear why.
Instead of the proceeds of this sale remaining in Scotland, and being reinvested in our economy for the public good, they will be heading south of the Border to the UK Crown Estate, whose profits are paid into the UK Government Treasury.
There is no other way to describe this than asset stripping by the Tories, plain and simple.
It is only fair and right that the income generated by my constituents and those living across Edinburgh, working and shopping in Fort Kinnard, stays in Scotland. It is because of them that the retail park is such a valuable commercial site. That the Tories continue to deny this is wholly indicative of their approach to Scotland.
At the same time as this money heads to swell the Treasury coffers, Crown Estate Scotland is looking to sell assets in order to raise funds to invest in the Scottish portfolio.
If returned, the £167 million would make a huge difference, representing 60 per cent of the current total assets of Crown Estate Scotland. That sort of finance would enable considerable investment in sites across the country, providing crucial support to rural and coastal communities and offshore renewable sites.
For the Tories to deprive Scotland of the opportunity to do so is simply outrageous.
This week the Scottish Government has announced it will intervene to explore the possibility of the money being invested in Crown Estate Scotland.
This intervention is extremely welcome and another example of the Scottish Government continuing to stand up for Scotland’s best interests.
It is completely unjust that the Tories continue to hold onto this money – they must do the right thing and return it to Scotland.
Ash Demham is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern