Scottish Tories call for oil figure rethink

The Scottish Conservatives have called for the Scottish Government to revise its figures on projected oil income. Picture: TSPL
The Scottish Conservatives have called for the Scottish Government to revise its figures on projected oil income. Picture: TSPL
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THE Scottish Government is facing renewed calls from the Scottish Conservatives to update “inflated” figures on projected income from North Sea oil.

The party points to Scottish Government figures which put oil revenue as high as £7.9 billion in 2016, which could be the first year of independence. It compares with an estimate of about £3.2 billion from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), set up by the UK Government.

Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown will focus on oil and gas revenues in a debate which makes wider claims of a “lack of financial detail” in the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence.

“We will use this debate to challenge SNP ministers directly - it is time they showed some transparency and faced up to the facts,” he said.

“Anything less will prove that, once again, the SNP is cynically trying to hoodwink voters with out-of-date figures.”

The debate comes less than a week since Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson pressed Alex Salmond on oil figures during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.

She pointed to the OBR forecast which suggests receipts will fall by almost 50% in four years, going from £6.1 billion in 2012-13 to £3.2 billion in 2016-17.

Scottish Government figures ‘sensible’

Mr Salmond has said the Government figures are based on oil at $113 a barrel, compared with other predictions going as high as $140 by the end of the decade.

“There’s a reasonable case to be made that this is not an overambitious forecast but a rather sensible one,’’ he told her.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “Treasury analysis shows that as a result of Westminster’s tax rises and benefit and public service cuts, the poorest 20% of households will be on average the equivalent of £814 worse off in 2015-16.

“Analysis of the current UK Government’s Budget changes to date, including Budget 2014, also shows that on average households will be worse off by the equivalent of £757 a year in 2015-16 as a result of changes to taxation, benefits and public services brought in by Westminster, while, when it comes to changes made to taxes, tax credit and benefits alone, those in the bottom 10% of income distribution are expected to see some of the largest losses as a percentage of their income.

“These figures are extremely concerning and impact on the most vulnerable in our society. Such drastic cuts to incomes and to services put the progress that has been made in tackling poverty at risk. As the Child Poverty Action Group has warned, these cuts coming from Westminster risk pushing a further 100,000 children into poverty by 2020.

“Those arguing for the status quo should consider the harm being done to households across the country as a result of Westminster budgets.

“The Scottish Government is committed to mitigating the harmful effects of Westminster welfare reforms and our social wage helps households during difficult times. However to respond to the key challenges of building a sustainable and secure economy, creating jobs and growing the working population, protecting public services, maintaining a decent social security system and closing the gap between rich and poor, we need the powers of independence.”

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