The lengths the former UK Labour government went to in order to hide Scotland’s oil wealth from Scots voters in the 70’s and 80’s has been described as “deceit and desperation” by SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie who has repeated calls for a Scottish oil fund.
New archive material has revealed evidence from secret Cabinet papers of a Foreign Office-inspired plot to undermine SNP claims in the 1970s that “It’s Scotland’s Oil”.
At the time, North Sea oil was crucial to UK borrowing and was regarded as the “collateral”, the resource supported huge foreign currency borrowing.
In order to counter the SNP campaign the then Labour Foreign Secretary Anthony Crosland suggested “confidential briefings of selected public opinion informers” and articles in newspapers with no acknowledgement of official involvement.
Another Foreign Office memorandum from 1977 alluded to the possibility of taking Orkney and Shetland under direct London control thereby excluding the territorial waters from Scottish international law. It pointed out that if Shetland, and possibly Orkney, remained in the UK, “a large part of the Northern North Sea now counting as Scottish waters, including substantial reserves of oil, would not be Scottish under international law”.
The secret papers were due for release in 2007 but were held back by the last UK Labour government, no reason has been given for the papers being kept secret.
Mr Hosie, a Member of the Treasury Select Committee, said:
“Tory and Labour governments at Westminster have conspired to keep Scotland from her oil wealth and her independence for over 30 years.
“These new revelations of plots and plans expose the lengths to which successive UK Government’s have gone. There is now a long list of deceitful steps taken by the Labour and Tory Governments that have deprived the Scottish people of years of future wealth.
“In the 1970’s the UK treasury tried to hide the real the potential of North Sea oil and the boost it would give to an independent Scotland – this can’t happen again.”
Mr Hosie repeated calls for a Scottish oil fund to be set up in order to enable investment in jobs, he also attacked the continued funding of nuclear weapon and illegal wars.
The SNP MP added:
“The time for an Oil Fund is now, Scotland’s resources should be funding employment, education and our National Health Service – not Nuclear Weapons and illegal wars.
“We should not let the deceits and desperation of Labour and Tories in years gone by stop Scotland standing up and claiming what is rightfully hers for the future.”