Oil industry is booming admits Scottish Labour leader


   By a Newsnet reporter

The accusations of hypocrisy faced by anti-independence politicians have deepened today after Johann Lamont used a trip to Aberdeen to highlight the ‘boom’ taking place in the oil and gas industry.

While visiting the company, the Scottish Labour leader described skills and learning provider Atlas as “contributing to the boom in the north east economy”.

Meanwhile a separate event in the city saw Ms Lamont talk up the oil and gas sector, stating that it “presents great opportunities for Scotland by creating new jobs and skills”.

However, just days ago she attacked the strength of the oil and gas sector claiming that “the oil boom that was announced on Monday drowned the credibility of the First Minister’s chief economic adviser, Crawford Beveridge, and of his finance minister.”

The anti-independence parties have made great play of the supposed volatility of oil prices, and have highlighted claims that Scotland’s oil and gas resources will soon run out.  In fact there is volatility in all markets, including great volatility in the financial markets.

This latest example of hypocrisy from a senior Unionist politician follows a visit to Aberdeen by Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Michael Moore last week, where they too talked up the prospects for the North Sea industry and said that oil and gas would have a vital role in supplying the UK’s energy needs for decades to come.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, described oil as a “major resource”, and admitted that the vast majority of the oil fields lie in Scottish waters, the first time that a UK Government minister has acknowledged that the oil reserves would belong to Scotland in the event of independence.

Mr Cable said:  “This is an expanding industry. We can either help create more jobs and opportunities across the UK if we get this right. Or see work going overseas if not.”

While the anti-independence parties argue that the price of oil is too volatile, they also claim that Scotland’s oil resources protect the UK from “volatile global markets”, leading to accusations that the anti-independence campaign preaches inconsistent messages for different audiences.  

UK energy secretary Ed Davey said: “The UK’s oil and gas industry is a vital strategic resource that helps fulfil our energy needs and insulates us from volatile global markets.”

Despite Labour’s Johann Lamont and UK Coalition Government ministers talking up the prospects of an oil boom, the Better Together website prominently displays an article entitled “Oil boom claims not supported by the evidence, say experts.”  The article attempts to scare voters into voting against independence by arguing that Scotland is too small to cope with “volatility” in the oil markets and repeatedly stresses that it is a “declining resource”.  

However Norway, which has a smaller population than Scotland and where oil makes up a far larger proportion of the country’s annual exports, out-performs the UK on almost all economic and social indicators.

In fact, Scotland continues to see increased investment in its oil industry. Oil production is set to increase next year, while this year sees record investment in the development of the industry.  Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive Malcolm Webb said recently:

“Record investment is forecast this year to search for and produce UK oil and gas reserves. This will be followed by an upturn in production from 2014, sustaining growth across the supply chain and reinforcing the industry’s already significant contribution to the UK economy.”

Most industry analysts estimate that it will remain a major resource for the Scottish economy for decades to come.  Similar claims about the volatility of oil and the supposedly imminent exhaustion of the oil reserves were made by No campaigners in the lead up to the 1979 Home Rule referendum.

The Yes campaign argues that Scotland’s oil resources should be used to develop the Scottish economy.  Under Westminster the revenues end up in the UK Government Treasury, where they are used to further the agenda of the UK government of the day. 

Commenting, SNP MSP Maureen Watt who previously worked in the oil and gas sector said:

“For Johann Lamont to come to Aberdeen and talk up the oil and gas sector after having so publicly trashed its prospects just days ago simply beggars belief.

“Anti-independence politicians always seem to talk down the oil and gas sector everywhere they go, until they visit Aberdeen and find themselves having to speak to the thousands of people prospering thanks to the industry.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is Johann Lamont or a Westminster Government minister; it is simply hypocrisy and people can see straight through it.

“People here know that the sector is flourishing as company after company invests in the North Sea oil & gas industry. That investment is not made on a whim, it is taking place because the industry is growing and anticipating increased production.

“These are extremely bright times for the North Sea oil & gas sector and instead of these resources once again being squandered by Westminster, it is essential that they are put to work on behalf of people in Scotland.

“With a Yes vote in September 2014 we can use our resources to build a fairer, more prosperous Scotland and ensure that the benefits of oil & gas are felt in Scotland for generations to come.”