The “broad shoulders” of the UK helped shield Scotland from the worst impact of the oil price crash in recent years, Theresa May will tell Scots today.
Her claim comes as Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson insisted she would happily never see another independence referendum again.
The Prime Minister will unveil plans for a Global Underwater Hub in Aberdeen, cementing the city’s role as an energy centre for renewables and offshore, as she addresses the Scots Tories’ spring conference in the Granite City.
Mrs May will seek to reinforce the importance of the union to Scotland’s economy just a week after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled plans to stage a second referendum on Scottish independence late next year. The UK government, which has control over the constitution, has so far ruled out such a vote.
The Prime Minister addresses Scottish delegates after a miserable showing for her party in yesterday’s UK local elections and ongoing turmoil over Brexit, but will reiterate her belief in the importance of the union to Scotland.
“Over decades, the oil and gas sector has made an outstanding contribution towards the whole UK economy,” she will say.
“It has developed a world-class centre of expertise in the incredibly challenging conditions of the North Sea. The UK government has done a lot to support the sector as the oil price has fluctuated over the last few years. Being a United Kingdom, with the world’s fifth largest economy, gives us the broad shoulders to do that.”
Ms Davidson will make her return to frontline politics when she makes the keynote address to conference tomorrow after a year on maternity leave following the birth of son Finn. But she said yesterday there should not be another independence referendum, while insisting she was ready to fight it.
“I’ve said all along I would quite happily never see another constitutional referendum on Brexit or independence in my lifetime because I think these sort of binary questions on complex issues push people into tribes and are damaging for the body politic and for political discourse in this country,” she said. Scotland suffered a massive economic shock between 2014 and 2016 as the global oil price slumped from more than $100 (£77) to below $40. It cost tens of thousands of jobs in the North Sea and saw billions of pounds wiped off Treasury tax revenues.
There has since been a recovery with the oil price now standing at about $70 a barrel.