Crown Estate devolution would be ‘equitable’ for Wales – Liz Saville Roberts
Wales’ devolved Government should be given control of Crown properties worth billions, in order to drive prosperity, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader has said.
Liz Saville Roberts said devolving control over the Crown Estate’s properties in Wales could help end a “begging bowl” culture, and give Cardiff more say over financial decision-making.
She also suggested it could be used to provide better energy security and ease the rising cost of living in Wales.
Ms Saville Roberts said it was an “apposite” time to discuss devolution of the estate, with the King’s coronation taking place over the weekend.
The Crown Estate is an independent company which belongs to the monarch for the duration of their reign, though the revenue from its £16 billion property portfolio flows directly to the Treasury.
The Sovereign Grant, which pays for the King’s official duties as head of state, is currently set at 25% of the Crown Estate’s annual profits, including a 10% uplift to pay for the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
The estate’s holdings north of the border were devolved to Scotland in 2016, and its revenue now goes to the Scottish Government.
The Crown Estate owns the UK seabed out to 12 nautical miles, and Ms Saville Roberts said an arrangement similar to Scotland would give Wales a direct say in how the profits from new floating wind farms planned off the Welsh coast would be spent.
She told the PA news agency: “The Crown Estate should be devolved to Wales because there is now so much potential, particularly with floating offshore wind, for us in Wales, to make sure that this isn’t just another extractive exercise.”
The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP suggested that if the profits from this were in the hands of the devolved Government in Cardiff Bay, it could be used to provide better energy security and lower heating costs for Welsh homes.
She said it could be a step in transforming Wales’ struggling economy, telling PA: “One of the criticisms that any Welsh politician on the left will face is that we are forever asking for more money, that we are asking for the Barnett Formula to be revised.
“I am very interested in what are the mechanisms that we could bring to Wales that would allow us to build our own economy more effectively, and not to be an adjunct.”
The Plaid MP said previous attempts to raise the issue with the Conservative Westminster Government had been a “non-starter”.
She said her party would be “certainly pushing” the cause if Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour were to win the next general election.
“It would be deeply hypocritical of Labour to ascend to power in Westminster, when they have held power in Wales since 1999, not to act on something where their longest standing Government have come out in favour of it,” she added.
Ms Saville Roberts, a member of the Privy Council who describes herself as a republican, said she had long raised the matter before it was known a coronation would take place this year.
She said: “It is apposite now of course, because people are considering how the royal family are funded.”
Speaking ahead of the coronation weekend, the Plaid MP said: “I think in terms of the cost-of-living crisis and people making the comparison between a massive public expenditure on a coronation which is not constitutionally necessary, it does make people think about where priorities lie.
“There will be people on the day of the coronation who will have a wonderful day, they will look forward to it, they will enjoy it and I really hope they do. I wish them all the best for that.”
She added: “I want to play my part in building Wales as a nation where we stand on our own two feet, where we are confident of moving into the future, where we are not having to put out the begging bowl, and to work with the people of Wales on small and large suggestions about how to do that.
“I think the devolution of the Crown Estate, it feels fair, it feels equitable, and we could do so much with this.
“It could be one critical step that could make so much difference to the Welsh economy in the furthest westernmost regions of north and south Wales.
“I ask the Government of the day to engage with this, and I would ask Conservatives who say that Welsh Government should get on with the day job, well, this is part of the day job.
“Growing the economy is part of the day job.”
Ministers have previously said they are not in favour of Ms Saville Roberts’ proposals.
While serving as secretary of state for Wales, Simon Hart last year told the House of Commons there was “no public appetite at all in Wales to devolve the Crown Estate”.
The Conservative MP, now Government chief whip, also suggested at the time that devolving the estate would “ fragment the market and delay the further development of key projects” in the floating offshore wind sector.
A Crown Estate spokesman said: “The Crown Estate works closely with the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales to manage land and the seabed sustainably over the long term and to bring broader economic, social and environmental benefits to Wales.”