INDEPENDENCE would give Scotland a second chance to harness its oil wealth for the “benefit of the nation”, a Scottish Government report has claimed.
The paper came as political leaders clashed over oil and gas yesterday, following new warnings from North Sea magnate Sir Ian Wood that Scottish Government estimates of how much is left are 45 to 60 per cent too high.
Yesterday’s report said that while Norway has invested cash from oil revenues in a special fund now worth more than £500 billion, Westminster administrations had instead used revenue from the North Sea to help fund general government spending and lower taxes.
It said a Yes vote in next month’s referendum would allow for a new Scottish Energy Fund to be created to “provide investment for future generations from a natural resource that can only be extracted once”.
Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “Poor stewardship of resources, frequent changes to the tax regime, a lack of focus on value creation and mismanagement of revenues are mistakes we cannot let happen again, and which an independent Scotland will address.
“In value terms, half the wealth from Scotland’s oil remains and it is imperative that Scotland does not allow the same mistakes to continue.”
Sir Ian is a widely respected industry figure who has been courted by the Scottish and UK governments. He published a landmark report this year into making the most of the remaining North Sea oil and gas.
According to Sir Ian, about 15.5 to 16 billion barrels of oil and gas could be expected to be recovered from the North Sea, while Alex Salmond has claimed this would be closer to 24 billion. Sir Ian said yesterday: “I’m not being pessimistic; I’m being realistic.
“We must not fool ourselves – we’ve got a depleting asset that will run out.”
However, the First Minister told MSPs at Holyrood that Sir Ian was “an authority on North Sea oil and gas” but “not the only authority”.
He said: “The figure I have often quoted of up to 24 billion barrels is not a Scottish Government figure at source, it is a figure that the industry produced, and I think it is a robust figure.”
Mr Salmond added: “Every other country in the world would give their eye teeth for such a substantial resource, so why do the Labour Party and the Labour Party’s allies think it is a great curse on Scotland?”
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “The sad thing is that, even faced with Sir Ian’s sober and serious analysis, Alex Salmond is still dissembling.”