Independence: North Sea oil workers ‘sceptical’

SIX out of ten North Sea workers do not believe their industry would be better run if Scotland became an independent country, according to a survey released today.

Of 2,500 engineers, technicians, oil rig workers and managers canvassed by an industry recruitment firm, only 16 per cent thought they would be better off if voters backed independence next year.

That compared to 62 per cent who agreed with the proposition that the industry would not be better run than it is now if Scotland opted for independence.

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The pessimism towards independence contrasted with the growing belief overall in the industry, however, with 74 per cent declaring they had confidence in the future of the North Sea.

Umbrella group Oil and Gas UK said that reflected the fact that firms were now investing billions extra into extraction in the North Sea.

The survey was carried out by the Aberdeen-based recruitment website Oil and Gas People, which matches potential candidates for jobs in the sector. It canvassed the views of 5,000 subscribers and received 2,500 responses to its survey.

SNP ministers have declared there is a “second oil boom” and argued that, if Scotland voted for independence, the industry would be supported to continue its extraction.

However, the survey suggests they still have work to do to convince oil and gas workers themselves. Respondents gave a variety of reasons for opposing independence, from concerns about “unrealistic taxes” falling on oil companies, the lack of certainty around investment and a belief that a new independent country would not have enough skilled people to drive the industry forward.

The minority who backed independence, however, gave as their reasons the belief that a Scottish Government could copy Norway’s management style both to take a “tighter grip” on the industry and to ensure profits were distributed better. They also believed that an independent country would give drilling firms more incentives.

Managing director of Oil and Gas People, Kevin Forbes, said: “Such a high level of confidence in the industry from those working on the inside is welcome news.”

Pro-UK parties seized on the findings last night. Scottish Labour’s shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex said: “The oil and gas industry is clear in its rejection of separation from the UK. Oil and gas is an important part of Scotland’s economy, but as a declining and volatile resource it would be foolish to bet the future of our country on it. The sector thrives by being part of the wider UK economy, and it is obvious that those in the industry agree. Scotland and the rest of the UK mutually benefit from sharing energy resources, risks and rewards. As the industry today makes clear, there is no sense in changing this.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The North Sea oil and gas sector can look forward to a vibrant and prosperous future with independence. There are 24 billion barrels of oil still to be recovered, with a potential wholesale value of up to £1.5 trillion. With capital investment predicted to rise production can be expected to continue for decades to come.”

Scotland ‘more than pays her way’

Finance Secretary John Swinney says that Scotland “more than pays her way” in the UK, after a Scottish Government analysis of tax revenue over the past 30 years.

Tax-take was higher per person in Scotland than the rest of the UK in each of the pastthree decades when a geographic share of North Sea revenue is included, he said.

The estimates were released as part of a series of papers setting out Scotland’s economic position before the independence referendum next year.

The figures do not take into account the level of public spending in Scotland.

Tax revenue was £56.9 billion in the last year, equivalent to £10,700 per person in Scotland and compared with £9,000 per person for the UK as a whole, according to the figures.

Over the last 30 years, revenue per person has been £1,350 a year higher than in the UK as a whole, when adjusted for inflation, the report states.

Mr Swinney said: “These figures confirm what we have known all along - Scotland more than pays her way in the UK.

“They show that the average tax receipt per person in Scotland has been higher in each of the last thirty years than it has been across the UK as a whole.”