Scottish independence: Four out of 10 North Sea oil firms ‘concerned’

Alex Salmond with a copy of the plans for consultation for a referendum Picture: REUTERS/David Moir
Alex Salmond with a copy of the plans for consultation for a referendum Picture: REUTERS/David Moir
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FOUR in ten companies operating in the North Sea are concerned about the potential impact of the independence referendum on their investment plans.

A report by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce included a question on whether the referendum planned for 2014 and its possible consequences was “a factor in future plans and investment proposals”.

Oil and gas contractors have expressed confidence in the industry (AP)

Oil and gas contractors have expressed confidence in the industry (AP)

A total of 39 per cent of firms surveyed said it was, 56 per cent said no and 5 per cent did not answer. The study said the responses were “inconclusive” and the issue would be explored further.

However, the poll also revealed that more than 50 per cent of oil majors and international and national service companies operating on the UK Continental Shelf claim a move to Scottish Government control of their assets has not been a factor in planning North Sea developments after 2014.

Report author Cliff Lockyer, of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said he was surprised at the survey’s result. “Comparing both large and small, and overseas and UK-based, companies, there didn’t seem to be a clear pattern. But what I think is going to be important is to see how the figures change as it becomes clearer what the policies are,” he said.

“At the moment, we are not clear about UK versus Scottish energy policies, and we are not clear about any differences about decommissioning policies or any changes to fiscal regimes.”

Robert Collier, the Chamber’s chief executive, said: “You’ve got 40 per cent saying they are uncertain about what’s going to happen and 55 per cent saying they don’t care because they are managing uncertainty all the time in global markets.

“I would suspect that those who are most concerned are the ones that are Aberdeen-based and UK-policy dependent. The larger international companies are managing uncertainty across all their different assets and are likely to be less concerned because they know how to manage it.”

But the results of the survey were seized on last night by rival political parties.

Gavin Brown, the Scottish Conservative’s finance spokesman, said: “The Scottish Government needs to listen to the industry on this issue because it is critical to the economic well-being of Scotland and the UK.

“It adds more weight to the argument that this referendum should be held sooner rather than later. That is the view of the majority of people and businesses, and now the oil and gas sector too.”

But Maureen Watt, SNP MSP for Aberdeen South, said the report showed the “holes in the anti-independence parties’ claims about uncertainty caused by the independence referendum”.

She said: “The majority of companies polled said the referendum was of no concern – highlighting the extent of the scaremongering from opposition parties.”

“Robert Collier, the chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “You’ve got 40 per cent saying they are uncertain about what’s going to happen and 55 per cent saying they don’t care because they are managing uncertainty all the time in global markets. I would suspect that those who are most concerned are the ones that are Aberdeen based and UK policy dependent. The larger international companies are managing uncertainty across all their different assets and are likely to be less concerned because they know how to manage it.