Secret papers show Westminster ‘pipeline veto’ cost thousands of North Sea jobs

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Secret files published after the 30 year rule have revealed that the Tory government in the 1980s refused to fund a north sea pipeline that would have led to the creation of up to 17,000 Scottish jobs.
 
The revelation, reported in today’s Press & Journal, shows that the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ignored the advice of several of her Ministers and vetoed plans to build a gas pipeline that would have linked North Sea fields together.

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Secret files published after the 30 year rule have revealed that the Tory government in the 1980s refused to fund a north sea pipeline that would have led to the creation of up to 17,000 Scottish jobs.
 
The revelation, reported in today’s Press & Journal, shows that the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ignored the advice of several of her Ministers and vetoed plans to build a gas pipeline that would have linked North Sea fields together.

According to the documents the £1.5 billion project, which had been left by the previous Labour Government, could have led to the creation of jobs at new chemical plants at Nigg and Peterhead.

The P&J report one Cabinet briefing note as saying: “It goes without saying that inward investment of this magnitude would have a very significant impact on the wellbeing of Scotland and of the Highland area in particular,”.

The files also show that the then Scottish Secretary George Younger wrote to Mrs Thatcher saying:
 
“I believe it would be a great mistake to allow a scheme of such importance to founder because we find ourselves confronted with a problem in setting out the mechanics of its financing.”

Cabinet colleagues also argued that private companies in the sector would eventually fund the project themselves if the initial work was underwritten by London.

However, despite being warned that to abandon the scheme would be “inexplicable”, would be “a great mistake” and would be “fatal”, the Tory Prime Minister refused to provide any initial funding for the scheme which was eventually scrapped.

Responding to the revelations, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, Mark McDonald said it underlined how Westminster cannot be trusted with Scotland’s oil and the jobs and economic benefits it brings.
 
Mr McDonald said:
 
“These papers just underline how Scotland’s oil and gas industry is far too important to Scotland to be left in the hands of the UK government.
 
“They are an echo of how successive Westminster governments don’t understand the industry and have squandered opportunities for jobs and investment in Scotland.
 
“Even now we see that George Osborne clearly doesn’t understand the industry’s concerns about his tax raid and its negative impact.
 
“The SNP is working hard to attract investment in North Sea Oil but Westminster’s historic bumbling risks some fields being left underdeveloped.  After 40 years of inept management by the UK Government, it is time Scotland was given a chance to control these natural resources.”

The refusal to offer funding to a North East energy project has similarities with the Peterhead and Longannet Carbon Storage projects that have been blocked by the refusal of successive Labour and Tory Government’s to commit funding.

The UK government recently announced they are to re-run a £1 billion carbon Storage competition originally ‘won’ by Longannet.

UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne scrapped UK government commitment to funding Longannet after claiming technical problems and increased costs.