If memory serves, the rationale behind the Norwegian oil fund is very particular to Norway’s economic history, and having an oil fund is not an end in itself.
In the 1960s, Norway had a balance of payments problem. It needed to tap into its vast potential for electricity generation from hydro schemes, and to minimise expensive oil imports from the Middle East.
However, the pace of Norwegian offshore oil production, beginning in the mid-1970s, rapidly satisfied the country’s domestic demand for crude oil, and was leading to a huge windfall in production royalties and taxation.
This could be a mixed blessing if fed directly into the Norwegian domestic economy, probably leading to wage inflation and adversely affecting Norway’s staple industries – its merchant marine and its fisheries. This could have had serious social side effects which were anathema to a conservative, traditional society.
An alternative was to ring-fence this wealth into an oil fund, by and large leaving the surpluses in North America and Europe when the crude oil was delivered, and holding these in bank balances, bonds, stocks, shares, etc. Such a strategy carries its own risks, but so far has paid off.
An independent Scotland in 1970-80 would have had to deal with the contraction in heavy industry and coal mining, plus poor industrial relations – problems Norway did not have.
Communities shattered by the contraction of traditional industry would have required rapid injections of aid in order to rebuild, so it is unlikely that a Scottish oil fund would have been in a strong position before oil production began to decline – if at all.
After all, who would vote for an oil fund instead of more affordable, energy- efficient social housing or an education system fit for the 21st century?
Gatehouse of Fleet
How politically realistic is George Kerevan’s analysis of “oil’s future” in a possibly independent Scotland (Perspective, 26 February)?
Take, for instance, the North Sea yielding a “£500 billion sovereign wealth fund inside a decade”.
Optimistically, the Wood Review says it “should be possible” to deliver £200bn over 20 years. However, it isn’t apparent that state “expropriation” of oil revenues is one of the Wood strategies.
Or, following the Dutch example, the Scottish state could take a 40 per cent stake in exploration. Would that not be realpolitik?
Isn’t entrepreneurial risk-taking the hallmark of the success so far of the North Sea industry?
Will a state bureaucracy fit with oil companies in the search for oil off the Hebrides? Small independents are more common now in the North Sea industry than the large global corporations.
Arguably, it is George Kerevan’s wishful thinking the oil industry will become “a resource for the common good”.
Old Chapel Walk
According to some European Union officials, an independent Scotland would find it difficult to join the EU. It is rather odd that the same EU officials are now stating the Ukraine, a country with no legitimate government and in dire financial straits, would be eligible for EU membership.
Could the Better Together campaign leaders inform us of their analysis of this situation?
Donald J MacLeod
Bridge of Don
In January 1917 the US President Woodrow Wilson (still hoping to keep the US out of the First World War) observed: “No nation should seek to extend its polity over any other nation or people; every people should be left free to determine its own policy…the little along with the great and powerful.”
It was a statement of the policy we have since come to know as “self-determination”, which most Western nations have adopted as a creed (although with varying levels of commitment) and which still underpins most decisions made at the United Nations. When is this principle – which puts nationhood at the centre of the separation argument – going to be discussed in relation to the independence debate?
Sadly, both sides are afraid of it – the SNP and the Yes campaign because they are afraid of being derided as “bravehearts”, and the Unionist camp because they fear a voter backlash against the inevitable logic of their argument, which is that Scotland is no longer a nation and therefore shouldn’t stand alone.
The cowardice of today’s politicians will result in the most important decision for the UK in 300 years being made on the basis of important, but essentially peripheral, issues – they will have us decide our future on the basis of which currency we will use, and the alliances we seek.
We are not well served by our degenerate political class.
It IS entirely predictable that Alex Salmond and his SNP colleagues will portray any comment on Scottish independence from David Cameron and others as “bullying”. The fact remains that those “south of the Border” – to use a phrase so beloved of SNP politicians – are entitled to express a view as citizens of the UK, despite the fact that they will have no vote in the referendum.
Perhaps of more concern – and intimidatory to some of us in Scotland and with a vote – is that the SNP’s attitude to those minded to say that we are better together is somehow disloyal to Scotland and that it is impossible to be proud of Scotland and to be Scottish and British simultaneously.
The white paper which underpins the SNP’s case for independence is essentially a manifesto for the SNP government – funded by the Scottish taxpayer.
As such it seems to be predicated on a perpetual SNP majority and a wishful assumption of what the attitude of the rest of the UK might be to the political landscape in the event of a Yes vote.
If Alex Salmond resents what those “south of the Border” say what is in the interests of Scotland as part of the UK, he is hardly in a position from “north of the Border” to say what is in the best interests of the rest of the UK as a separate state.
There will be many (myself included), from the rest of the UK and resident in Scotland, as well as many Scots living in the rest of the UK, who do not relish the prospect of waking up on 19 September to find they are living in a foreign country.
(Prof) Paul W Jowitt CBE