Scotland’s oil industry can look forward to “a strong and stable future in an independent Scotland”, First Minister Alex Salmond will say today.
Mr Salmond will speak at the inaugural annual Oil & Gas UK Conference in Aberdeen, which is expected to attract some 500 delegates from the oil industry.
He is expected to say: “Today, I want to show how an independent Scotland - with specialised civil servants, with the appropriate expertise, based here in Aberdeen to work on oil and gas - will manage our remaining oil and gas reserves more effectively.
“And I want to highlight four things - tax stability, understanding of the industry, an improved industrial base, and an oil fund - which will be developed after independence, and which will bring lasting benefits: not just for industry, but also for the people of Scotland.”
The importance of oil to an independent Scotland has been brought into sharp focus in recent months after plummeting oil revenues contributed to a reversal in Scotland’s economic fortunes relative to the UK.
An unplanned stoppage in the Elgin oil field and the oil industry’s shift from revenue-gathering towards investment was cited as the cause of a sharp drop in oil revenues, which pushed Scotland’s deficit above the UK’s for the first time in recent years.
The Scottish Government hopes to invest Scotland’s oil wealth for the future with a Norway-style oil fund, backed by a stabilisation fund to ensure peaks and troughs in oil revenues do not upset the Scottish Budget.
But opposition parties say Scotland will need every penny of Scotland’s oil revenues to fund public services, and say it’s impossible to spend and save at the same time.
The Oil & Gas UK Conference will hear from Holyrood and Westminster ministers, regulators, industry leaders and specialists on topics ranging from commercial issues and access to finance to data management, energy policy, environment, exploration, legal, operations, safety and skills and employment.
The Conference will also address the Wood Review of the industry, which recommended greater cooperation and sharing of infrastructure between rival firms to get more oil out of the North Sea.
Mr Salmond is expected to tell delegates: “Sir Ian Wood’s final report noted a clear industry view that ‘fiscal instability has been a significant factor in basin underperformance’.
“Of course, the Wood Review - which is an excellent piece of work - was not asked to consider fiscal matters within its remit. However the Scottish Government’s own expert commission, chaired by Melfort Campbell, will take that exact debate further forward.
“Its remit covers taxation, regulation, decommissioning and transitional matters in the move to an independent Scotland. I know that Oil and Gas UK, and many of the companies represented here today, have provided valuable information and help to the Commission. Its final report will build upon the principles set out in our oil and gas paper last July - including a focus on providing long term stability and predictability for industry.”
Oil & Gas UK’s business development director Stephen Marcos Jones said ahead of the event: “The conference will combine main plenary sessions with focused parallel streams, allowing delegates to tailor each day to their own areas of interest and expertise - be that health and safety, economics or operations.
“We’re pleased to have a real cross-section of contributors, including the UK and Scottish Governments, regulators, academics, plus operators and contractors. We hope this conference will become an annual flagship event for Oil & Gas UK.”
Brian Horsburgh, managing director of AECC, said: “As the National Energy Exhibition Centre we are proud to be hosting the first annual Oil & Gas UK Conference this week.
“With the core theme focusing on maximising economic recovery in the UK and developing a sustainable future for the UK Oil and Gas industry, we are certain that delegates will benefit from attending.”