Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Alex Salmond hails 'strong future' of North Sea oil

North Sea oil platform Image copyright PA
Image caption The future of North Sea oil has become a key battleground in the independence debate

An independent Scotland would have expert oil and gas civil servants based in Aberdeen, first minister Alex Salmond has said.

At a major conference in Aberdeen, Mr Salmond told the industry it had a "a strong and stable future in an independent Scotland".

He also highlighted the importance of tax stability in the industry if Scotland votes "Yes" in the referendum.

The pro-Union campaign said oil was better managed as part of the UK.

The speech was to delegates at the inaugural Oil & Gas UK conference.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander is expected to outline the UK government's vision of the future of the industry at the conference tomorrow.

Mr Salmond said: "I want to show how an independent Scotland - with specialised civil servants, with the appropriate expertise, based here in Aberdeen to work on oil and gas - will manage our remaining oil and gas reserves more effectively.

"And I want to highlight four things - tax stability, understanding of the industry, an improved industrial base, and an oil fund - which will be developed after independence, and which will bring lasting benefits: not just for industry, but also for the people of Scotland."

North Sea oil and gas has emerged as one of the key battlegrounds in the debate around Scottish independence.

The Scottish government has said in the event of a "Yes" vote it would create a Norway-style fund, backed by a stabilisation fund, to ensure peaks and troughs in oil revenues did not upset the economy.

However, the pro-Union campaign has accused the Scottish government of being too optimistic about future oil revenues, adding that the fund would not be possible because revenues from oil and gas would be needed to pay for public services.

Deficit

An unplanned stoppage in the Elgin oil field and the oil industry's shift from revenue-gathering towards investment was cited as the cause of a sharp drop in oil revenues, which pushed Scotland's deficit above the UK's for the first time in recent years.

As well as hearing from government ministers, industry specialists and regulators, the conference will also look at the Wood Review of the industry, which recommended greater cooperation and sharing of infrastructure between rival firms to get more oil out of the North Sea.

Mr Salmond told delegates: "Sir Ian Wood's final report noted a clear industry view that 'fiscal instability has been a significant factor in basin underperformance'.

"Of course, the Wood Review - which is an excellent piece of work - was not asked to consider fiscal matters within its remit. However the Scottish government's own expert commission, chaired by Melfort Campbell, will take that exact debate further forward."

However a spokesman for the pro-Union Better Together spokesperson said: "Oil and gas is great for Scotland, but the reality is that the tax we get is volatile and declining.

"Being part of the larger UK means we are better placed to manage this volatility without putting at risk the money we have to pay for our schools and hospitals."

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