THE fact that the 1970 Heath government conceded a realistic estimate of tonnage output of North Sea Oil in 1973 does not rebut the charge that it consistently concealed the value and potential of the industry (Letters, 29 May).
After careful research, the SNP issued a deliberately cautious figure of £825 million a year. The then secretary of state for Scotland, Gordon Campbell, stated in the House of Commons that the figures had been “grossly over-stated”. He maintained that there were no estimates of income, other than about £50m from royalties. If there were no government estimates how could he know whether the SNP figure was too high, or too low?
Mr Campbell continued to downplay the value of the oil industry throughout his career. When the relevant Cabinet papers were released it was revealed that Prime Minister Edward Heath had asked for his advice on the Scottish oil issue, and Mr Campbell had advised that they deny any concessions. (This was the same Gordon Campbell who campaigned as “the fisherman’s friend” but who told the PM that to get into the European Economic Community “the Scottish fishing industry was expendable”.)
What Scotland, and the UK, needed was to control the issue of licences, as Norway did, to a level where the UK industry could grow to provide the major share of the construction and ownership, but when Margaret Thatcher came to power just as the money was rolling in, she called in all and sundry to get the maximum income. As in so many other fields, she “sold the family silver”.