IN ANOTHER sour piece by Brian Wilson (“Welling discontent over oil assets”, Perspective, 24 July), the former Labour Energy Minister attempts to excuse Westminster’s shocking waste of North Sea revenues in the 1970s and 1980s – including telling lies about its true potential, to scupper the Nats – while claiming that a post-independence Scottish Government could do no better.
His bitterness and that of another of regular Scotsman columnist Michael Kelly is becoming embarrassing (they were both once respected), although I take comfort from the likelihood that fair- minded Scots will be repelled by their attitude.
What Mr Wilson and the British government refuse to admit is that a combination of new oil and gas fields off the English and Welsh coasts, England’s no doubt generous share of existing North Sea resources post-independence, and the impending bonanza of shale gas in England (plus nuclear and renewables) will make the remainder of the UK self-sufficient in energy pretty soon. Denmark, for example, with a much smaller share of the North Sea pie than England, is Europe’s third-largest oil producer.
So I agree with Mr Wilson: haggling about who gets what is a “pointless argument”.
Most nations abutting the North Sea have been blessed by a tremendous energy resource, which can be exploited for many years to come while we develop and refine renewables.
Lucky Scotland, lucky England. Now can we please get on with tackling the scandalous legacies of deprivation and poverty which come with being in the British Union whoever is in power in London?
IN STAVANGER recently, I visited one of that very attractive town’s civic showpieces, the Petroleum Museum.
This is a superb state-of-the art exhibition on everything relating to the oil industry; but besides that, it has clear and detailed displays on the location and extent of Norway’s oil fields, the amount of oil and gas that has already been extracted and the known and estimated amounts that remain, and the projected timetable for future extraction.
It also sets forth the revenue that has been raised, and the ways in which the income has been, and is being, administered by the Norwegian government for the benefit of the whole country.
Finally, it presents informative displays on other sources of energy, including renewables, and the state of their development in Norway; and on the ecological issues relating to the extraction and use of fossil fuel.
Carefully researched and clearly presented facts and figures – how different from the guesswork and partisan obfuscations with which we are fobbed off in Scotland.
The exhibition in Stavanger is an incontrovertible demonstration of what can be achieved by a country with the will, the capability and above all, the political power to manage its own resources. Haste the day when Scotland recovers that status.
OUR First minister, Alex Salmond, is a very astute politician but like King Canute he cannot stop the tide turning. In the real world he has no control over the price of oil, which directly influences the development of the UK oil and gas industry offshore.
America has transformed its energy needs and is now becoming self-sufficient in energy as a direct result of extensive fracking techniques, which other countries such as the UK will inevitably follow, reducing the demand for oil and depressing its price.
It is, therefore, a very fragile and unpredictable economic basis on which to predict Scotland’s economy, based on oil revenues beyond independence when many in Aberdeen can clearly remember the disastrous effect of a crashing oil price and its knock-on effect on North Sea development.
Black gold it may be but oil is just as vulnerable to market pressures as any other stocks and shares, leaving governments vulnerable and impotent.
Ignoring the usual partisan comments in the media and looking at the actual 54-page Scottish Government oil report reveals that what it contains has all been said already, only just now collected in one place.
The key is to consider our future, not to harp on the only-too-real past failures by Westminster, and on what has been done by other countries in times of plenty.
So we read that there is a potential wholesale value of £1,500 billion of North Sea oil remaining (this has already been criticised numerous times as a silly misrepresentation of its true value to us) but no objective explanation of what revenues will stem from taxation and licence fees less the various allowances granted to the (mostly international) oil enterprises extracting the crude.
This is the crux – how much over how many years?
An oil fund remains out of sight and the oil pumped will decline too fast to leave a surplus once public needs are met. The egregious comparison made between the £1,500bn “value” and the apparently relatively small tax allowances would seem to undermine the credibility of the whole report – far too many wishful words and not much realistic substance.
By all means let’s go for the needed longer and increased extraction, but don’t dress up what is required to achieve this with empty words filled with good intentions.