Scottish independence: Call for oil future clarity

Michael Moore has called for greater clarity in the debate over the future of Scotland's oil. Picture: Greg Macvean
Michael Moore has called for greater clarity in the debate over the future of Scotland's oil. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has called for clarity when debating the future of North Sea oil in terms of Scottish independence.

Mr Moore said Scottish ministers must stick to the facts about the challenges facing the industry, which is predicted to see a fall in revenues in 2016/17.

His comments came as he travelled to the Brazil to a host a UK Government event which will enable Scottish and UK firms to promote themselves to the expanding Brazilian energy market.

Mr Moore said: “Because of the size and scale of the UK economy, we were able to use the last budget to announce new tax reliefs and guaranteed support for decommissioning costs (for the oil industry).

“The certainty created by these measures is stimulating multi-billion pound investment in the North Sea’s future and jobs in Scotland now.

“But we need to be equally clear what this does not mean.

“It does not mean increased revenues now. It does not eradicate the economic challenge for smaller countries relying on volatile oil prices. It does not change the long-term fiscal outlook for Scotland.”

He added: “Both the Scottish and UK governments acknowledge the independent and robust figures produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

“Those figures show oil revenues falling so that from 2016-17 Scotland will run a deficit higher than the rest of the UK. That fact remains - and it is the very year that the Scottish Government wants independence.

“On the independence question, it is in everyone’s interests to debate the future on the basis of fact, not fantasy.

“Scotland could of course be independent, but the challenges that would come with leaving the UK family cannot be ducked.”

The Scottish Government last week published figures showing a £7.6 billion deficit in 2011-12, assuming a geographic share of North Sea oil and gas.

The figure represents about 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) and is lower than the overall 7.9% UK equivalent.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said it shows Scotland is in a stronger fiscal position than the UK.