‘Scotland’s oil’ is an SNP fiction

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SCOTLAND’S Future, the SNP’s white paper on independence, is a misleading document. On page 301 it is stated: “Overall, Scotland has the vast bulk of the UK’s offshore oil and gas reserves.”

SCOTLAND’S Future, the SNP’s white paper on independence, is a misleading document. On page 301 it is stated: “Overall, Scotland has the vast bulk of the UK’s offshore oil and gas reserves.”

As it stands, Scotland has no offshore reserves. At present the right to exploit the resources in the seas surrounding the UK lies with the British Crown, under the Continental Shelf Act of 1964, in accordance with international law.

When we read the small print of Scotland’s Future we discover that the claims of vast oil wealth are built on a flimsy foundation. They are based on a hypothetical economic model which assumes a geographical distribution of reserves. This in turn relates to a principle (the median line principle) that has been established for purposes of economic analysis and determining zones of civil jurisdiction (but not for distribution of oil and gas reserves).

There is broad agreement among authorities, including Prof Alex Kemp, whose economic model Scotland’s Future utilises, that in the event of a Yes vote a division of the assets would have to be negotiated. If it comes to negotiations, it seems unlikely that rUK would settle for the scraps thrown it in the SNP document.

Marine law can be vague and imprecise, but certain points are well founded. A dispute can not be solved unilaterally; saying “It’s Scotland’s oil” does not make it so, no matter how often and how loudly it is said.

Secondly, equitability rather than geography would be the guiding principle in an international court. If geography was all in these territorial disputes, as is popularly supposed, the Falklands would assuredly belong to Argentina, Gibraltar to Spain.

It’s hard to believe the SNP is unaware of the true situation regarding ownership, but in its mainifesto it chooses to pretend it’s all settled, while playing on the popular perception that “It’s Scotland’s oil”. Whatever Scotland’s Future, it can’t be built on deceit like this.

Paul Wright, Edinburgh