A LEADING trade unionist has called for more openness and transparency in the calculation of oil production after Scottish Government figures showed Scotland’s share of North Sea oil revenues fell by 75 per cent in the first three months of this year.

Jake Molloy, Scottish regional officer for the Rail, Maritime, Transport (RMT) union, told The National even oil analysts were querying how production and cost figures were being calculated.

What has not been questioned is that the industry has suffered from the global collapse of oil prices, which have tumbled since June last year.

“On the costs issue, we’re getting questions raised by analysts who won’t go public, unfortunately, on how these figures are calculated,” said Molloy.

“Oil & Gas UK [the industry body] has used a study from Wood Mackenzie to show how costs in the UK have increased way beyond anything else seen across Europe.

“But one analyst told me that even those figures are questionable because the chart they gave us included tariff payments, but not tariff revenues.”

He added: “For every barrel of oil that goes into a pipeline one oil company will pay another a chunk of cash.

“They’re including the costs of paying the tariffs but not including the receipts that the oil companies receive from that.

“So the whole issue of measurement and statistics on production is a complete minefield and really we need some honesty and transparency because nobody is grasping what’s going on.

“Every other week we get different figures saying different things and it is difficult for us to challenge and question Oil & Gas UK on what’s going on.”

Mr Molloy went on: “One thing we do know is there’s lots of oil and gas still out there and if we’re going to exploit it then we need a stable fiscal regime which is clear and transparent so we don’t have this doubt and uncertainty.

“We need certainty, openness and transparency in order to get things done if we’re going to do them at all.”

The quarterly national accounts showed Scotland received £168 million in tax receipts between January and March, down from £742m in the final three months of 2014.

In the first three months of last year, £969m was generated for Scotland’s share of oil revenues.

In its oil and gas bulletin in May last year, the Scottish Government estimated oil revenues would be between £15.8 billion and £38.7bn between 2014/15 and 2018/19.

The latest bulletin, published in June, said revenues could be as low as £2.4 billion for 2016/17 to 2019/20, with its highest estimate at £108bn, based on a best-case scenario of the oil price returning to $100 per barrel.

The Scottish Conservatives leapt on the figures, which were published earlier this month, saying they showed “how wildly wrong” the SNP’s pre-referendum calculations were.

The Conservatives' finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “The plunge in oil revenues for the first three months of this year is incredible.

“Whichever way you look at it, and with the best will in the world, there is just no way an independent Scotland could survive on this.”

However, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the bulletin confirmed Scotland remained, by some margin, the biggest oil producer in the entire European Union.

He said: “Recent provisional figures from DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) suggest that May saw the most oil and gas produced in the North Sea since March 2012.

“If this trend is sustained production could increase this year for the first time in 15 years.

“Oil, however, is a bonus, not the basis of Scotland’s economy.

“Even without it, Scotland’s output per head ranks third of the 12 countries and regions of the UK, behind only London and the south-east.”

The SNP MSP Mark McDonald said: “People are tired of the Tory rhetoric that Scotland is forever dependent on Westminster – particularly at a time when it is making massive austerity cuts to public spending.

“Murdo Fraser’s comments are equally hypocritical since it was his Tory government’s Department of Energy who predicted an even higher oil price." He added: “Norway’s oil revenues have made up a far greater proportion of their revenues, and no one is suggesting, like Murdo Fraser, that they are too wee and too poor to be independent.”

The National View: Honesty needed in discussion of North Sea oil and gas

George Kerevan: Strange things happened in the global and UK economies this summer