NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Scottish independence: Cameron and Salmond focus on energy

David Cameron and Alex Salmond Image copyright PA
Image caption The full cabinets of Mr Cameron (left) and Mr Salmond will meet less than 10 miles apart

The UK and Scottish cabinets will hold separate meetings in the Aberdeen area on Monday as they address the future of the North Sea oil industry in light of the Scottish independence debate.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the oil and gas industries would be best served by Scotland remaining in the UK.

But Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond said independence would bring "enormous" benefits to the sector.

The meetings coincide with a major report on the oil and gas industry.

On Monday both Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond will chair cabinet meetings in the north east of Scotland.

The full UK cabinet will meet in Aberdeen - only the second time in more than 90 years it will have met in Scotland.

And Mr Salmond will hold a cabinet seven miles away in Portlethen.

The two cabinet meetings are expected to coincide with retired oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood publishing a major report into the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry.

Sir Ian's interim report, which was published in November, made a series of recommendations aimed at maximising the economic benefit from the UK's remaining offshore resources.

These included setting up a new regulator to oversee the industry.

Mr Salmond said he supported a regulator and said it should be "self-evident" that it would be based in Aberdeen, "one of the world's great oil and gas capitals".

He said there was still plenty of value in the oil and gas under the North Sea.

"One of the strong points that Sir Ian makes is that in order to get the maximum return you need a regulator to make sure the infrastructure we have in the waters around Scotland is used in the most economic and efficient way," Mr Salmond said.

'Vital boost'

In a speech a fortnight ago, the prime minister delivered a plea for Scotland to remain in the Union, pledging to "fight with all I have to keep us together" ahead of the independence referendum on 18 September.

Ahead of Monday's cabinet meeting, Mr Cameron said the cabinet would set out "how the UK government can maximise the benefit of North Sea oil and gas to the UK economy for decades into the future, giving a vital boost to local communities and families across Scotland."

He said: "For the past 300 years, Britain has led the way in finding new sources of energy. It is the strength of the UK's broad-based economy which can make the difference and ensure we can invest in our energy for the long-term future."

Mr Cameron pledged to "continue to use the UK's broad shoulders" to invest in the oil and gas industry in order to "attract businesses, create jobs, develop new skills in our young people and ensure we can compete in the global race".

But Mr Salmond said Mr Cameron was "talking so much hooey" and Westminster had "swallowed" up North Sea oil revenues for 40 years instead of investing them in an oil fund as Norway has done.

"All we have had from Westminster over the past 40 years is a change of oil minister every single year and a regular change in taxation regime, which has delayed some of the huge investments we are now seeing taking place in the waters around Scotland.

"Westminster's track record has been abysmal, just as Norway's has been excellent.

"When we take control of Scotland's resources then I think we'll set about emulating what's happened in Norway as opposed to looking to the rather dismal record of London control."

The Scottish cabinet usually meets in Edinburgh, but regularly holds sessions in town and cities across Scotland, especially in the summer months.

Mr Cameron's predecessor as prime minister, Gordon Brown, held a meeting of the UK cabinet in Glasgow in 2009.

The UK cabinet had last met in Scotland in 1921 - when Winston Churchill was the Colonial Secretary and a Liberal MP for Dundee.

The meeting was held in the council chamber at Inverness Town House because Prime Minister Lloyd George was on holiday in the Highlands.

On the agenda was the Irish emergency, unemployment and Armenian refugees.