Scottish independence: North Sea firms confident

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MORE North Sea oil and gas firms believe Scottish independence would have a positive impact than those who think its effect will be negative, a study published today reveals.

The 20th Oil and Gas survey, conducted by the Fraser of Allander Institute for Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, found 18 per cent of companies thought independence would be positive for the industry.

That contrasted with 12 per cent who said it would be negative. Most (38 per cent) felt a Yes vote would make little difference. The remaining 32 per cent felt it was difficult to reach a clear view.

The findings were welcomed by the Scottish Government.

Sponsored by the law firm Bond Dickinson, the survey questioned more than 700 operator, contractor and service companies over a two-month period in March-April this year.

Last night, energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “It is very welcome that 56 per cent of oil and gas companies surveyed either believe independence will be positive for the sector or will make little difference.

“This is not the first time we have heard that North Sea investors are relaxed at the prospect of a Yes vote and independence.

“The Scottish Government is clear that, to realise the North Sea’s full potential, we need long-term predictability and stability for the industry, something successive UK governments have totally failed to achieve.”

Mr Ewing added: “Scotland needs the powers to use its resources for the benefit of the people who live here. Only a Yes vote on 18 September will deliver the powers needed.”

Almost half of firms in the sector say the referendum is having an impact on their plans and investment, the survey said. The percentage claiming it is having an effect has risen from 38 per cent last spring to 45 per cent.

The report paints a mixed picture for the industry. Just 52 per cent of contractors are working at or above optimum levels on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), the lowest level since late 2011, with this problem being felt most acutely by smaller contractors. There has also been a sharp fall in the percentage of contractors working at or above optimum levels in international markets, with just 47 per cent doing so – down from 73 per cent in the previous survey. The report’s authors felt this reflected increasing competition.

However, 37 per cent of oil and gas firms are more confident about their future prospects on the UKCS than they were a year ago, compared to just 15 per cent who are less confident.

Better Together highlighted the 45 per cent who reported an impact on investment. Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “It is clear that uncertainty is forcing oil firms to delay investment in Scotland.

“The oil and gas sector is hugely important. But revenues are volatile and declining and can’t pay for everything. Being part of the UK attracts more investment which creates more jobs but the message from major employers is that uncertainty is putting those benefits at risk.”