By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP Leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the publication of the ‘Official History of North Sea Oil and Gas’ by leading oil economist Professor Alex Kemp, who has spent a decade trawling through government documents for the project.
The publication came on the day that Prime Minister David Cameron described the opinions of 68% of Scots who believe that North Sea oil revenue should be allocated to Scotland as “stupid”.
Professor Kemp’s findings confirmed there was evidence that the benefits of oil to Scotland’s economy were “downplayed” to suppress the SNP in the 1970s with a chapter ‘Why did the Treasury oppose devolution for Scotland in the later 1970’s?’.
Commenting Mr Salmond said:
“On the day that this book is published by someone who is undoubtedly the top expert on the North Sea oil industry it is a sign of unbelievable arrogance that David Cameron describes the opinions of the vast majority of the people of Scotland as ‘stupid’.
“His comments reflect that of successive Westminster governments – Labour and Tory – who time and again misled the people of Scotland about the extent of our nation’s oil wealth and squandered it.
“Scotland’s oil revenues have provided over £300 billion worth of tax revenue to the UK government – about £60,000 for every man, women and child in Scotland.
“Westminster may have got that money – so it’s now time for Scotland to get our turn.
“Mr Cameron’s arrogant attitude is only equalled by his disrespectful dismissal of the views of so many Scots.
“As the recent oil taxation changes have shown, the oil and gas industry is far too important to Scotland to be left in the hands of the UK government.”
The new book also reveals that the Labour government at the time rejected a proposal from Tony Benn, who was Secretary of State, to take control of BP’s north sea assets.
Mr Benn explained: “If we had been able to do that it would have meant more money coming to us and greater control of the oil.
“Depletion was very important to us, we were very anxious to see that the oil wasn’t depleted so rapidly that you were left with empty fields.”
Current estimates suggest there remains almost half of the original north sea oil reserves. Exploration to the west of Shetland have seen significant new discoveries and further exploration is ongoing.
Professor Kemp’s conclusions on the downplaying of oil benefit echo revelations contained in the McCrone report which was kept secret for almost 30 years.
That report was a dossier written in 1974 for the Conservative UK government by Professor Gavin McCrone, a leading government economist, into the viability of an independent Scotland.
McCrone concluded that North sea oil revenue would have given an independent Scotland one of the strongest currencies in Europe and a large tax surplus.