By Martin Kelly
A poll of oil workers has found mixed views on the effect independence would have on the industry.
The survey for NES Global Talent found that 54% of respondents believe that more jobs will be created as a result of a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.
Meanwhile 75% of respondents believe that their current wages will be maintained or increased in an independent Scotland, while 69% believe that investment in the industry will stay at current levels or increase.
However there were also concerns expressed with 39% believing oil and gas investment levels would fall if Scotland becomes independent and 53% saying it will have a negative impact on workers.
The survey results were interpreted differently by parties on each side of the referendum debate with the SNP insisting it demonstrated the negativity and scares promoted by the No campaign were unfounded.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central Kevin Stewart said:
“This poll shows most offshore workers believe independence will see an increase in North Sea jobs. These are extremely welcome findings and show that the negativity towards the oil & gas sector from anti-independence politicians is doing little to damage confidence within this booming industry.
“People within the industry who know it best anticipate increased jobs in an independent Scotland – and that is a boost to the Yes campaign.
“Having suffered from the kind of Westminster mismanagement that saw a surprise £2 billion tax raid sprung on the industry with no warning, it is no wonder that the prospect of an independent Scotland holds no fear for those working in the oil & gas sector.
“It is increasingly clear that the only way to ensure that the sector is managed in a sensible way on behalf of people in Scotland is with a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.”
However Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of Holyrood’s Energy Committee, said: “What this survey shows is no one really knows what to expect from the oil industry in the years and decades to come. It’s a hugely valuable, greatly appreciated but, ultimately, volatile industry.
“That’s why its future is far safer in the environment of the United Kingdom where fluctuations can be absorbed and investment guaranteed.
“It seems, like everyone else, workers in the sector want considerably more information from the SNP than has been forthcoming before a firm consensus can be reached.”
The sector has dominated the independence debate in recent weeks with clashes over estimates and figures. The UK Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) claims that revenue from the sector will shrink significantly over the next three decades to an insignificant amount of the UK GDP.
However industry backed Scottish government figures have challenged the pessimistic forecasts with both insisting that there are still significant reserves of oil still to come from the sector. The Scottish government estimates that there is a further £1.5 trillion worth of oil yet to be extracted.
MEANWHILE, writing in the energy magazine Energy Voice, Tony Mackay has said that the independence referendum needs a debate over oil.
The MD of economists Mackay Consultants writes: “The standard of economic analysis on the subject has been mixed but even the best work has been misused or misrepresented by the politicians on both sides of the divide.”
Mackay revised his own previous pessimistic forecasts for the next few years and now says that there will be increases in production due to investment, but that long term the trend will be downwards.
“It is probable that there will be short-term increases over the next few years because of the current investments in new field developments, notably West of Shetland, but the long-term trend is undoubtedly downwards.” said the analyst.
His latest forecast is a change from his predictions in July 2012 when he told the BBC that the industry faced sharp falls in the five years up to 2017.
Mackay also appeared more optimistic on the price of oil saying he expected it to average “at least $100 per barrel for the foreseeable future”.
However he was scathing of recent long term predictions from the OBR calling the three decade timescale on which its July forecasts were based “ludicrous and unnecessary”.
The body, created three years ago by Chancellor George Osborne, has been ridiculed for its pessimistic forecasts for the oil and gas sector. Last month it claimed revenues from the UK oil and gas sector would fall from 0.7% of GDP in fiscal year 2011/12 to reach only 0.2% of GDP by 2017-18 before plummeting to 0.03% of GDP over the next two decades.
The OBR based its long term predictions on there being no rise in oil prices in real terms from 2018 onwards.
TOMORROW! Duggy Dug – Scotland’s Oil
Hollywood star Brian Cox provides the voice of cartoon character Duggy as we look at oil and independence.
To help fund ‘Project Duggy’ click on the image on the right.