SNP anger over ‘shady cash grab’ at Edinburgh’s Fort Kinnaird

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The SNP has accused the UK government of “conning” Scotland after a share of Fort Kinnaird retail park was sold for £167 million.

Part of the Edinburgh mall has been sold to London-based M&G Estates, a fund which has begun moving some of its operations to Luxembourg because of Brexit.

Fort Kinnarid, Edinburgh

Fort Kinnarid, Edinburgh

Fort Kinnaird, the Crown Estate’s most valuable asset in Scotland, was not included in the list of Scottish properties to be managed by Crown Estate Scotland following the passing of the Scotland Bill in 2016.

SNP MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The UK government no doubt wants this shady cash grab kept below the radar – but Scotland is simply being conned.

“Just two years ago UK ministers refused Scottish Government requests to devolve this site to the new Crown Estate Scotland, and it’s now clear that there are 167 million reasons why.”

He added: “Not only that – it’s a bitter pill to swallow that whilst Crown Estate Scotland is looking to sell off assets to raise funds to invest in its portfolio, its UK counterpart is currently undertaking a multi-billion pound redevelopment of its central London assets – the funds from Fort Kinnaird would have been a significant amount of money for Crown Estate Scotland.”

The Crown Estate is a £13 billion real estate business which returns all its profits to the Treasury, some £2.6bn over the past decade.

According to the SNP, the Crown Estate is undertaking a £1.5bn redevelopment of its properties in London, while Crown Estate Scotland is having to sell off a tenanted farm in Fochabers in Moray to raise revenue.

The nationalists are demanding that Scotland receives the full £167m.

Mr Lochhead said: “Had this site been devolved, the Scottish Government could have reinvested such a huge windfall in transforming Crown Estate sites across the country, including Glenlivet and Fochabers estates, and villages and harbours in my constituency, and other sites across Scotland.

“Instead, the cash is disappearing from right under our noses. The UK government needs to play fair and give Scotland the money we are owed to help support our communities particularly in our more rural and coastal areas.”

A spokesman for The Crown Estate said: “The Scotland Act 2016, agreed by both Holyrood and UK Parliament, agreed that assets held in joint venture structures, rather than by the Crown Estate alone, were not included in the transfer to Scottish ministers.

“The Crown Estate held a 50 per cent interest in the Gibraltar Limited Partnership, with the remainder held by the Hercules Unit Trust, advised by British Land.

“This partnership owned Fort Kinnaird and Gallagher retail park in Cheltenham, England and was due to end in September 2019; the partners decided not to extend. Fort Kinnaird is now owned in a new joint venture established between Hercules Unit Trust and M&G, and the Crown Estate has resumed sole ownership of Gallagher retail park.

“The Scotland Act 2016 provided that proceeds from the Gibraltar Limited Partnership would return to the Crown Estate.”