Oil wealth secret

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With regards to the recent debate on these pages, the Conservative Party claim that North Sea oil projections were not suppressed is craftily confined to one prediction made in 1973 – at a time when the SNP stood at one Westminster seat and just 11.4 per cent of the vote. The Tories omit to mention that the SNP did not commence its 
sudden and sensational re-
emergence until February 1974.

Professor Gavin McCrone was requested to write his paper on Scottish oil during the last days of Ted Heath’s Tory government, in response to the 1972 SNP’s “It’s Scotland’s Oil!” campaign. McCrone’s paper was 
finally presented to the Cabinet Office in April 1975. It revealed how North Sea oil could have made an independent Scotland as prosperous as Switzerland.

Prof McCrone wrote that the budget surplus of an oil-rich independent Scotland would have been so massive as to be “embarrassing”. He wrote that Scotland’s currency “would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian kronor”. He added that Scotland would be in a position to lend heavily to England and “this situation could last for a very long time into the future”.

Within days of its receipt at Westminster in 1974, Prof McCrone’s document was judged as incendiary and classified as secret. The mandarins demanded that Prof McCrone’s 19-page analysis be given “only a most restricted circulation in the Scottish Office because of the extreme sensitivity of the subject”. It was buried, never to re-emerge until the 30-year rule applied in 2005.

McCrone’s analysis forms the background to Denis Healey’s statement that his Treasury “did underplay the the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism”.

Tom Johnston

Burn View, Cumbernauld

North Lanarkshire