Clyde Coast MSPs highlight lower Firth of Clyde Oil boom potential

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  By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSPs Michael Russell, Margaret Burgess, Chic Brodie and Kenny Gibson have today highlighted the enormous potential in the lower Firth of Clyde oil fields.

Meeting at the Yes Shop in Irvine the Clyde coast SNP MSPs spoke with local Yes activists and undecided voters about the opportunities for the local economy and employment that lie in stimulating oil and gas activity off the West coast.

In June this year former UK Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine admitted that the Tories blocked a potential oil boom off the West coast of Scotland in the 1980s.  The admission from the former UK Defence Secretary followed confirmation from the MoD that it had prevented oil exploration from continuing due to the area being used by nuclear submarines.

Commenting, MSP Margaret Burgess said:

“The truth is Westminster cannot be trusted to manage Scotland’s natural resources.  Throughout this campaign we have heard a number of confessions from former senior UK government ministers who admit Scotland’s oil potential has been covered up.  A Yes vote on Thursday is our one opportunity to harness the potential of our bountiful natural resources.”

According to recently revealed declassified papers, seismic surveys were undertaken by BP, Horizon and the then state-owned British National Oil Corporation (BNOC) in an area south of Arran in 1981.   In the summer of that year, BP applied for a production licence covering the breadth of the Firth of Clyde.

However, by September 1981, the MoD had become involved and instructed the Department for Energy that no drilling rigs should be allowed in the area, leading to BP abandoning its plans for further oil and gas exploration.

In 1983, BP again attempted to explore the area and submitted a revised application for a production licence covering a smaller area south of Arran, and the Department of Energy requested that the MoD lift its “blanket ban” on drilling rigs.  However, in November of that year the Department of Energy warned that the MoD was still staunchly opposed to exploration drilling in the area.

BP then agreed to a licence in 1984 that would allow them to “take exploration beyond initial stages” without using drilling rigs, a deal that would prevent the company from properly testing the area’s potential.  The company eventually relinquished its licence in 1988.

Earier this year, former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey admitted that the UK government underplayed the value of Scottish oil in the North Sea in the 1970s to combat support for independence.

SNP MSP Michael Russell added:

“Instead of relishing the opportunities of our vast natural resources on the lower Firth of Clyde, Westminster has lumbered us with the biggest collection of weapons of mass destruction in Western Europe.

“With a Yes vote on Thursday we can get rid of these immoral weapons and focus our energies on building a sustainable and prosperous economy for the West coast.  The opportunity to tap into the oil reserves in the lower Firth of Clyde will transform local economies, particularly those situated along the Cowal peninsula and across the Isle of Bute, bringing much needed investment and job opportunities.”

The Scottish Government will, this Autumn, co-host a workshop with Heriot-Watt University’s Institute of Petroleum Engineering to examine the potential for conventional oil and gas resources in the waters off the west coast.

The area which includes the north and west coast of Shetland down to through the Hebrides and into the Firth of Clyde will be the subject of a review in order to determine the true scale of the oil and gas reserves.

Chic Brodie, who last year lodged Freedom of Information requests that uncovered the Ministry of Defence had blocked a potential oil boom in the Firth of Clyde during the 1980s, said:

“The Tories McCrone-type deception of the oil boom potential in the Firth of Clyde is a classic example of Westminster not having Scotland’s best interests at heart. We need independence to create the jobs and economic benefits that will come from oil and gas production rather than squandering Scotland’s wealth by paying for the next 50 years of Trident nuclear weapons.”

SNP Colleague, Kenneth Gibson added:

“An independent Scotland will have the power to generate a West coast oil bonanza. With over 40 years of experience in the North Sea, the industry will bring expert support to future exploration in the lower Firth of Clyde. Our local economies will at last share in the economic boom Westminster has shamelessly denied them for so long.”

Speaking in August, John Howell, Professor of Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The offshore area to the west of Scotland includes several major basins with hydrocarbon potential.

“While over 3,000 exploration wells have been drilled in the North Sea and West of Shetland, only around 20 have been drilled to the west of the Scottish mainland.

“This provides significant future potential which can only be appraised with detailed scientific study.”