Leaders; Time for Westminster to grasp oil-price

THERE are two views that stand out clearly in the continuing low oil price and the impact that is having on Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Cheaper manufacturing and distribution should off-set the drop in tax from oil. Picture: PA
Cheaper manufacturing and distribution should off-set the drop in tax from oil. Picture: PA

It seems now to be generally accepted that low oil prices will boost the UK’s economy, but also that they will adversely affect Scotland in particular as it plays a bigger part in our economy.

Loss to the UK exchequer from tax revenues is likely to be more than made up for by the increase in other parts of the economy from cheaper manufacturing and distribution.

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That view is reinforced today by the Manpower study which says that UK employment prospects are the healthiest for years, with a “surprise” jump in public sector optimism in the run-up to the general election, but that Scotland’s jobs outlook has fallen to its lowest level in two years after being hit by the fall in oil price. At -1 per cent, Scotland is the only region in the UK with an outlook in negative territory going into the second quarter.

Today Holyrood will hear a debate over what should be done to help Scotland through these difficult times in the oil industry.

Dan Macdonald’s think tank N-56 has called for policymakers responsible for oil and gas industry taxation and regulation to be relocated from London to Aberdeen, a call the Scottish Government has backed.

The group wants key decision-making functions, including HM Treasury oil and gas taxation and the Scottish Government’s energy directorate, to move closer to the industry, a move which would build on the decision to locate the new regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority, in Aberdeen.

It also talks about the tax regime, and that surely is at the heart of it. The Scottish Government has also talked about making the tax regime more industry friendly, And the Scottish Government is right to say that both a substantial package of tax reductions and a commitment to stability and a predicable tax regime are needed.

It has to be borne in mind that the oil and gas industry is not solely the concern of the North-east of Scotland, or even just Scotland. Oil & Gas UK figures from 2013 showed 28 per cent of offshore workers lived in North-east Scotland, and 21 per cent in the rest of Scotland. So more than half lived outside Scotland, with 16 per cent of the total in north-east England.

No-one is asking for the high oil price to somehow be magically re-introduced, even if that were within the gift of the government. What is needed is a sensible and joined-up approach that will give the oil and gas industry a sustainable long-term future, and at the heart of that must be a recognition that there are many levers that the UK can utilise towards making that so, because the oil and gas industry is vital to the UK as a whole. Westminster has already waited too long.

Police must investigate dog’s death

Crufts is not just the largest dog show in the world, it is also probably the best known. It is truly a British institution.

So it is extremely sad that it is marred by what now seems certain was the poisoning of one of the dogs entered in the show in Birmingham.

Although a final toxicology report is still awaited, the owners of Irish Setter Thendara Satisfaction, known as Jagger, say the vet examining the dog after its death found cubes of beef which had been sewn up with poison inside, probably two or three different types of poison.

As is to be expected the owners of Jagger are devastated. Co-owner Aleksandra Lauwers said that her nine-year-old son had lost his best friend. And it is not just the family that will feel the loss of the dog, it also visited elderly people in hospital as pet therapy.

The dog’s other owner, Dee Milligan Bott, a world respected breeder, has said she might now give up dog shows. It is not known exactly what the motivation was for such a horrible act, there is speculation that it may have been a jealous rival, although it seems unlikely it would be the act of someone involved with dogs. The owners are now leaning towards the theory that it was someone who objects to dog shows.

It is clear the Kennel Club, the organisers of the show, will have to upgrade security. The public have access to the dogs as they await their turn in the arena, and that will have to stop.

But the other thing that must happen is a police investigation here in Britain. It simply is not good enough for West Midlands Police to say that officers have not been asked to investigate. They must launch an inquiry now given the nature of the allegations.