Friday, 29 March 2013

It's still Scotland's oil

One of the biggest lies told by British Unionists is that an independent Scotland would be an economic basket case.

For years, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrats have told us we are too wee, too poor and too stupid to govern our own country. They are still trotting-out the same lies. Have a look at the ‘Better Together’ campaign’s website: you will do well to find anything resembling a positive case for Scotland remaining within the British Union. Instead, the Unionists attempt to scare Scots from voting ‘Yes’ next September and restoring to Scotland the status of being a normal, independent nation.

Scots are a highly-educated people – so we are certainly not too stupid to govern our own country. Scotland has a bigger population than Norway, one of the most successful countries in the world – so we are not too wee to govern our own country. That just leaves the Unionist line that we are too poor. Let’s look at the facts: last year Scotland was in a relatively stronger financial position than the UK to the tune of £4.4bn, which works out around £824 per person.

Ah but, the Unionists argue, an independent Scotland would not be so well off because our oil wealth is running out.

Personally speaking, even if we had no oil reserves I would still want Scotland to be an independent country. Independence and self-determination are the normal state of affairs for virtually every nation on the face of the globe. I want my country to be a normal nation.

If we listen to Unionist politicians (and the British media), you would think Scotland had been hit by a ‘plague of oil’. Scotland is the EU’s biggest producer of oil, but we are told this would be an economic disaster for us as an independent nation.

Some undecided voters believe the oil must be running out, otherwise why would Westminster be contemplating handing over control of the resource to an independent Scotland? In reality, though, the UK Government isn’t contemplating handing over control of North Sea oil fields to Scotland, which is why they are putting everything into trying to persuade us to reject independence next year. In addition, one of the first things the devolved Scottish Parliament did in 1999 (Labour-Lib Dem administration) was to transfer 6,000 square-miles of the Scottish sector of the North Sea into English legal control. So, even after we have re-established Scotland as an independent nation, England would have legal access to anything that lies beneath the seabed of those 6,000 square-miles.

British Governments have been telling us for 40 years that Scotland’s oil is going to run out. They told us that in the 1970s, even though the then UK Government had commissioned a report, produced by a senior Westminster Civil Servant, Professor Gavin McCrone, which stated “estimates from the SNP that oil could yield £800m by 1980 are far too low”. The McCrone Report also said the economy of an independent Scotland would “tend to be in chronic surplus to a quite an embarrassing degree”. It revealed Scotland’s currency “would become the hardest in Europe”, and that “for the first time since the Act Of Union was passed, it can now be credibly argued that Scotland's economic advantage lies in its repeal.”

The McCrone Report was delivered to the UK Government in 1975. They classified it as ‘Top Secret’ and buried it in Westminster’s files. They then told us Scotland’s oil was running out and we were an economic basket case, dependent on hand-outs from England. The report only came to light in 2005 after the SNP submitted a Freedom of Information request.

They are still telling us the oil is running out, but the experts seem to believe differently. When I say experts, I’m not talking about politicians or economists. I’m talking about the oil companies which put their money where their mouth is.

Just last month, Oil and Gas UK revealed that investment in the North Sea is at its highest level for 30 years and is continuing to rise. Oil and Gas UK represents 320 companies active in the North Sea oil industry. Investment in new North Sea oil fields rose to £11.4bn in 2012, and is expected to top £13bn this year. These companies would not be making such investments if they did not expect a very profitable return on their money.

The number of new North Sea oil projects submitted to the UK Department of Energy almost doubled in 2012 – with 33 having been approved since January 2012.

The Scottish Government estimates there are still 24-billion barrels of oil to be recovered from Scottish oil fields in the North Sea, with a wholesale value of £1.5-trillian.

It is also the case that exploration carried out in the late 1970s and early 1980s revealed potentially massive oil reserves off the west coast of Scotland. So, while Scotland’s oil reserves will eventually run-out, it is not going to happen any time soon.

The UK Westminster Treasury has benefitted from 40 years of Scottish oil wealth. Only independence guarantees that from now on Scotland gets its share.

Have a look at the Norwegian Futures Fund, currently valued at over £400-billion. Norway discovered oil at the same time as Scotland, but with smaller fields. Successive Norwegian Governments have invested the nation’s wealth for the benefit of the Norwegian people. Norway is a small, independent country, unlike Scotland which, as part of the British Union, has soaring unemployment and increasing areas of multiple-deprivation. In energy-rich Scotland, over 2,000 pensioners die every winter for no other reason than they are poor and can’t afford to put on the heating in their homes.

Incidentally, there are few people better qualified than Alex Salmond to talk about Scotland’s oil. Before he was elected to the UK Parliament in 1987, he was the Chief Oil Economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland. During his time in that role he established the BBC/Royal Bank Oil Index, which is still used by the oil industry and media today.

It’s still Scotland’s oil and it’s time Scots benefitted from it. Only independence delivers to us control of our own country, including our natural resources.

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