Better Together chief under fire after oil fund claims dismissed by Norwegian official

0
1165

  By Martin Kelly
 
A leading figure from the No campaign, who said that Norway relies on high taxes in order to pay for its oil fund, is being urged to issue a correction after Norway’s Finance Ministry dismissed his claim.
 
SNP MSP Maureen Watt has accused Better Together campaign chief Blair McDougall of “peddling more misinformation” after he said that Norway could only afford an oil fund because it has “much, much higher taxes” than Scotland.

Speaking recently on Radio Clyde, Mr McDougall told listeners that: “Norway affords paying into its oil fund because it has much, much higher taxes than we have here in Scotland.”

The Better Together official also claimed that the UK Treasury doesn’t benefit from North Sea revenue, and added: “Every single penny of the oil taxes we get out of the north sea goes on public services in Scotland already,”

However Mr McDougall’s claim that higher taxes were needed in order to establish a fund were dismissed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.  A spokesman said that all revenues from the country’s oil and gas resource go into the so-called oil fund, regardless of the income tax raised by the Norwegian Government.

Asked to confirm whether Mr McDougall’s comments were accurate, the spokesman said:

“According to OECD data Norway has higher total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP than does the United Kingdom. See http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=REV

“Norway has a system where all petroleum (oil and gas) revenues are transferred to the Government Pension Fund Global, irrespective of total Government revenue.  Every year, the Norwegian parliament approves a budget which states how much should be transferred from the Fund over the budget.

“Over time we expect this number to be around 4% of the Fund value – irrespective of the size of Norway’s total budget revenue.  This is reflected in the so called Fiscal Policy Rule.”

The Fiscal Policy Rule limits the amount any Norwegian Government can use from the fund in order to spend in the Norwegian economy.

The Norwegian Finance Ministry official added: “It is therefore not the Norwegian government’s tax take as such, which determines how much Norway saves in the Fund.”

The comments from Mr McDougall brought a stinging rebuke from SNP MSP Maureen Watt who accused the Better Together chief of “peddling more misinformation.”

Challenging Mr McDougall to issue a correction, Ms Watt added: “Blair McDougall has been caught out peddling more misinformation from the anti-independence campaign.

“The onus is now on Mr McDougall to take the opportunity to correct his inaccurate remarks.”

Norway’s oil fund is envied the world over.  Since being set up in 1990 it has grown to a staggering $930 billion and has risen fifty per cent in value since 2012.  This month it emerged that every person in Norway was now a theoretical Kroner millionaire with the fund owning over one per cent of all the stock in the world.

[We have been asked to point out that the statement on the Norwegian Oil Fund was issued on behalf of the Norwegian Finance Ministry and should not have been attributed to Wilhelm Mohn specifically.  We have also added a sentence from the original statement on tax revenue as a percentage of GDP initially not included in the original article.]