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Scottish independence: UK underplayed value of oil

Labours Denis Healey says Westminster politicians are scared stiff they will lose North Sea oil revenues. Picture: Getty

Labours Denis Healey says Westminster politicians are scared stiff they will lose North Sea oil revenues. Picture: Getty

FORMER chancellor Lord Healey has admitted the UK government underplayed the value of Scottish oil in the 1970s to combat support for independence.

The former Labour deputy leader said the government downplayed figures on Scotland’s oil wealth to counter nationalism ahead of the 1979 devolution referendum.

Lord Healey told Holyrood magazine the unionist parties were now “worried stiff” about losing UK oil revenues if Scots vote for independence next year. The Labour peer said the UK would “suffer enormously” without the billions of pounds in tax the Treasury receives from oil.

He went on to claim that an independent Scotland would “survive perfectly well” due to North Sea reserves and that the rest of the UK would “just need to adjust”.

Lord Healey said: “I think they [Westminster politicians]are concerned about Scotland taking the oil. I think they are worried stiff about it.

“I think we would suffer enormously if the income from Scottish oil stopped, but if the Scots want it [independence], they should have it and we would just need to adjust.

“But I would think Scotland would survive perfectly well, economically, if it was independent Yes, I would think so … with the oil.”

Lord Healey said: “We did underplay the value of oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism, but that was mainly down to Thatcher.

“We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office, because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out her policies without that additional 5 per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.

“It’s true we should have invested the money in things we needed in Britain and I had thought about an oil fund, but it wasn’t really my responsibility by then.”

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