The UK’s Crown Estate has been accused of a “cash grab” that could cost Moray assets a share of a £167 million windfall.
The agency has sold its multi-million stake in the Fort Kinnaird retail park in Edinburgh.
However, despite the estate’s assets north of the border being devolved to Crown Estate Scotland – the money will instead be funnelled to a retail park in Cheltenham.
Last night, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead branded the sale “a scandal” while the Auchenhalrig Farm on the Fochabers Estate, which is owned by Crown Estate Scotland, was being considered for sale to generate much-needed revenue.
The stake sold at Fort Kinnaird represents about 60% of the value of all crown assets in Scotland while it tries to raise £3.3 million for investment projects over the next two years.
Mr Lochhead said: “Even though Fort Kinnaird was an asset in Scotland, a technicality was found to make sure it was not devolved from the UK. They decided it was different solely for the reason that they wanted to cash in on it.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow while Crown Estate Scotland is selling off its own assets in order to raise funds to invest.
“This windfall would have made a huge difference on sites across Scotland, including the Fochabers and Glenlivet estates and at Portgordon Harbour.”
Fort Kinnaird was the only Crown Estate site in Scotland not devolved when the agreement was finalised in 2016 despite pressure from the Scottish Government.
It was decided that because the retail park stake was a joint venture with another organisation that it should remain part of the UK’s portfolio.
The UK Crown Estate has now sold its stake in Fort Kinnaird and used the cash to assume full ownership of the Gallagher Retail Park in Cheltenham.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the UK Crown Estate explained that all proceeds from its portfolio were returned to Westminster’s Treasury.
A Crown Estate Scotland spokeswoman said: “We understand that Scottish Ministers requested that the Crown Estate’s interest in Fort Kinnaird was devolved but that the UK Government refused and decided to exclude any assets held in limited partnerships from the transfer.”
A Scottish Government spokesman declined to comment on whether they would be pursuing proceeds from the sale.
He said: “The fact that the economic interest in Fort Kinnaird was not devolved and the reported proceeds from the sale of this interest are not available for investment in the Scottish Crown Estate is deeply disappointing.”