No-campaign caught peddling contradictory messages on Scottish oil and gas

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   By a Newsnet reporter

The anti-independence campaign has been accused of treating the public like fools over Scottish oil and gas, and sending contradictory messages to different audiences.

When giving interviews for oil and gas industry publications, Westminster paints a glowing picture of the future of the North Sea, in stark contrast to the doom and gloom the anti-independence parties present to the public in Scotland, the SNP has said.

The accusation comes after a UK government minister, the energy secretary Michael Fallon, praised the strength and long term future of the sector – putting him at odds with anti-independence colleagues in Scotland who have maintained a relentless negativity on the issue.

UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon has said that the offshore sector was on course to smash last year’s total thanks to multibillion-pound projects which will extend the life of the industry for decades to come.

Describing claims that the sector was in decline as “exaggerated”, Mr Fallon praised the more than £14billion to be invested in UK oil and gas developments this year, up from the £11.8billion invested in 2012.  The minister added that the record investment would assure the future of the sector for decades.

Speaking to Energy Voice Mr Fallon said:

“This will be a record year for the North Sea, and it shows the confidence that industry has in the region’s future.

“The decline of the North Sea has been exaggerated – it is maturing, but we are only now in the second half of this industry’s life.”

However, just last week Mr Fallon’s coalition colleague, the Lib Dem’s Scottish leader Willie Rennie MSP, gave a dire warning that oil revenues would only fall in future, and that the industry’s boom years were long past.  Mr Rennie asserted that oil revenues were “volatile, unpredictable, and falling”.

Mr Rennie’s comments follow similar claims from head of the No campaign, Alistair Darling MP, who asserted that just 2 billion barrels of oil remain.  Mr Darling accused First Minister Alex Salmond of having “inflated the amount that he thinks is left in the North Sea to something like 12 times what the independent experts say”.

In fact, Mr Salmond had used an accepted industry figure of 24 billion barrels.  The same figure of 24 billion barrels was also in the UK Government’s oil and gas industry strategy paper published in March. 

Despite the claims of Mr Darling, independent experts such as Oil and Gas UK report that 24 billion barrels remain to be extracted.  Speaking to the BBC, Oil & Gas UK communications director Trisha O’Reilly said:

“There is a substantial prize still to be won, with up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas to recover.

“These barrels will be difficult and expensive to develop and operate, but with co-operation with and between the Scottish and UK governments, and continued innovation and strong stewardship by the industry, we believe it can be done.”

Commenting, SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine Maureen Watt said:

“Once again the Westminster Government has been caught out saying one thing to the oil and gas sector who can see first-hand the industry boom taking place and another to the Scottish public.

“The first instinct of the No campaign and its politicians is always to talk down our oil and gas sector and the positive role it would play in an independent Scotland – despite all the evidence of the success it is enjoying.

“Yet here we have a Westminster Government Minister publicly contradicting their doom-laden predictions for the industry and acknowledging the success the sector is enjoying.

“These contradictory messages are an approach that quite simply treats people in Scotland like fools and the No campaign should be ashamed of themselves.

“The manufactured negativity of the No campaign is shown up for what it is by the fact that whenever the Westminster Government talks to people in the sector, it has no choice but to acknowledge the boom taking place.

“With the right handling, Scotland’s oil and gas industry can continue to thrive for many decades to come – and the contradictory message from the anti-independence side makes it ever clearer that this can only happen in an independent Scotland.”

MEANWHILE, the Chairman of Shell UK, Ed Daniels has said that there is “decades” of activity left in the North Sea and that large companies will continue to have a major presence in the sector.

In an interview in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Daniels challenged claims that some larger companies would wind down their activities:

“There’s a misperception that oil majors, Shell included, are not particularly interested in the North Sea,” Mr Daniels said.

“Actually, that’s just not true.  We at Shell are a big North Sea producer today, representing 14pc of UK oil.

“We’re investing £2bn a year in the North Sea, either in new developments or refurbishment of existing activities to re-life them for the next 10 and 20 years.  We see that there is a material presence for Shell in the North Sea for years to come.  I think the North Sea as a province has decades of activity.”

 

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