While the exploitation of Scotland's North Sea oil and gas is often hailed as an economic triumph, it is in fact a story of plundered wealth and mismanaged resources. In six chapters we explore the history of Scotland's relationship with oil, and the twists and betrayals along the way.


Chapter One: How Westminster plundered the North Sea and sold out past and future generations of Scots

THE exploitation of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas reserves has often been portrayed as an economic triumph. The first of these six chapters presents an alternative view based unashamedly on what past and future generations of Scots have lost due to the way Scotland’s oil and gas wealth has been plundered, squandered and mismanaged by successive Tory and Labour Westminster governments.

Of course, there will be an immediate outpouring of venom from Unionists who will claim it was never Scotland’s oil. Worse, if they do concede the point, they will argue that Scotland’s share should be based on the size of its population which would, of course, once again favour the fat, over-resourced underbelly of the UK that is London.

They are wrong. For the sake of argument, if it is assumed that the 1701 joining of Scotland and England was a marriage-type arrangement then both countries would bring existing assets with them. These assets surely included all mineral wealth lying within their land and continental shelf offshore regions. The received wisdom regarding the extent of those boundaries as rigorously researched by Professor Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen of the University of Aberdeen is illustrated in the figure above.

As a ballpark figure, Scotland’s share of UK’s North Sea assets is approximately 80 per cent!

In 1974, to the chagrin of the Tory Government, the size and Scotland’s likely ownership of that wealth was brought to their attention in the oft quoted McCrone report. Its contents were so explosive, in so far as they flattened out of sight any counter arguments Westminster might make against the economic case for an independent Scotland, that they labelled it top secret for more than 30 years.

The SNP’s claims at the time regarding the extent of the income from future North Sea oil and gas were derided by ministers despite the “secret” McCrone paper having informed the government that: “It must be concluded, therefore, that large revenues and balance of payments gains would indeed accrue to a Scottish government in the event of independence”; and that “This paper has shown that the advent of North Sea oil has completely overturned the traditional economic arguments used against Scottish nationalism.

“An independent Scotland could now expect to have massive surpluses both on its budget and on its balance of payments and with the proper husbanding of resources this situation could last for a very long time into the future.”

Was this ministerial stance against the prospects of an independent Scotland in 1974 outright deceit? If everyone in Scotland knew just how wealthy an independent could have been is there any shadow of doubt that they would have voted Yes to independence? Is this an example of overt mis-selling on a nuclear scale?

Equally important, the revenue from exploiting North Sea oil has been used almost exclusively to plug the hole in the UK’s debt-fuelled

foreign ventures, funding Trident and investing inordinate sums in the prosperous south. In essence, Scotland’s oil was the family silver, brought to the sham “marriage”, and the UK sold this capital to avoid going under. In consequence, in the event of Scotland ever winning its freedom, it has already paid off any share of national debt owed by the UK.

This historical sideshow obscures the real damage done by Westminster to the UK’s and Scotland’s oil and gas “take” from the North Sea. The salient points are:

Westminster’s policy during the 1980s of privatising state-run energy companies the British National Oil Corporation (BNOC/Britoil), British Gas Corporation (BG) and British Petroleum and of essentially empowering multinational oil companies to control the pace and development of oil fields discovered in the licensing areas awarded to them simply beggars belief. Little wonder then that oil companies became fabulously wealthy as they strove to maximise shareholder wealth rather than boost government coffers.

And worse, if possible, over the past 50 years or so Westminster has encouraged maximum production at all times, even when prices were ridiculously low. Is this a breach of their fiduciary duty to protect the interests of past and future generations of Scots for whom the oil and gas resources were their birth right?

Mismanagement is too gentle a description to apply to their laissez-faire approach. Why? Well contrast the approach taken by Norway to its share of the North Sea oil and gas fields. The size of the resources were more or less the same as were the difficulties in exploring and producing the oil and gas. Norway, however, has generated almost $19 per barrel more for the nation than the UK and twice the income from approximately the same output as demonstrated in the state of play figures in 2014 (see graph).

The Norwegian Oil Fund stands at £1 trillion today. Arguably Westminster’s trust in private enterprise cost UK citizens £400 billion which should have been available for funding affordable housing, reducing inequalities, boosting the NHS and establishing green energy production.

In total Scotland’s oil should have contributed £600 billion to Westminster, had Westminster followed the approach taken by Norway. Had Scotland won its independence in the 1970s, the likelihood is that it would by now be one of the wealthiest countries in Europe.

In 2010, the Office for Budgetary Responsibility was created to provide “objective” forecasts for the UK Treasury. Objective they may be, but press criticism of the frequent revisions to forecasts calls into question their utility value. Thus, in 2015 when the OBR slashed its forecast of future North Sea oil revenue by, wait for it, 94 per cent, alarm bells might have started ringing, especially as at the same time Oil & Gas UK was claiming there were almost 24 billion barrels of oil still recoverable from the North Sea. Did the OBR forecast affect voters’ attitudes to the SNP in the 2015 election?

In summary, there are lessons to be taken on board by political parties in Scotland going forward. Statements by Westminster on the non-viability an independent Scotland can be taken with a pinch of salt. Scotland has made an unbelievably disproportionate contribution to the Westminster and oil company coffers over the past 50 years. When a national resource is being exploited it is folly to leave the exploitation to private companies.

When private companies contribute funds to, say, to one political party, and then private companies are left to run the economy, the moral hazards are overwhelming. Add to that the “reward system” that involves “thanks a lot” peerages and the like, then the need for the UK system to be radically modernised is critical. For example, many Scots would claim the House of Lords is nothing more than a retirement home for party donors and past-it MPs. And finally, Scotland can justifiably claim all the national debt (approx £1 trillion) belongs to England!

The National:

Chapter Two: Westminster let oil companies profit at Scotland's expense by getting priorities wrong

SOMETIMES it is possible to have an out-of-body experience akin perhaps to the bemusement felt by the little boy in the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The Wood Review was commissioned in June 2013 by Sir Ed Davey, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Sir Ian Wood’s remit was essentially to come up with a plan for maximising economic recovery from the remnants of the depleted North Sea oil money tree. And Wood quickly produced the goods. So persuasive was the review that the coalition government fully accepted all its recommendations. The backslapping and applause that greeted the publication of the Wood in February 2014 report continues to this day. And the cheerleading is almost universal, with political parties of all persuasion joining in.

It gave rise to the creation of a new industry regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), whose performance has also been cheered from the rafters. Well, here goes – head above the parapet time, and no oil man’s protective hard hat to wear.

First, a question: what exactly is happening to Scotland’s oil wealth as a consequence of the Wood Review and the creation of the OGA?

Press reports suggest all is well. Indeed, in response to a 2.9 per cent increase in oil and gas output in 2016-17, even Paul Wheelhouse, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy in the Scottish Government, has been quoted as saying “Scotland’s oil and gas industry has a bright future, and it is encouraging to see this continued increase in production which has risen by a total of 25 per cent over the last two years.”.

In November 2014 the Department of Energy & Climate Change led a call for evidence on how to implement the Wood Review’s recommendations. However, it was made crystal clear they would not listen to any challenge to the recommendations. All they were interested in was how to best implement them.

Arguably that was a strange, almost evangelical, approach for a government to adopt. Thus, presumably, it would have been deemed inappropriate to ask for clarification on what Wood and the Government meant by Maximising Economic Recovery (MER). Nowhere in the Wood Review is it defined. However, this is where the OGA eventually rides to the rescue. According to the OGA annual report and accounts for year ended March 31 2017: “The Oil and Gas Authority’s (OGA) role is to regulate, influence and promote the UK offshore oil and gas industry in order to achieve the statutory principal objective of maximising the economic recovery of the UK’s oil and gas resources (MER UK).”

And to measure their success: “The OGA has developed a success stories tracker, dashboard and methodology which allows impact to be quantified using three key metrics which look at expected future volume of oil and gas production, capital expenditure committed to new projects, and reduced or avoided costs through improved or accelerated outputs.”

Thus MER means maximising production output as cheaply as possible and as quickly as possible and maximising capital expenditure committed to new projects.

The key headline figure is of course production. Against these measures OGA has done well, and few would dispute OGA Chairman Sir Patrick Brown’s statement that the chief executive Dr Andy Samuel has produced “a truly outstanding performance.” And that presumably was instrumental in the chief executive receiving an eye watering bonus of £60,000-£65,000 making a total full year equivalent salary of £335,000-£345,000. Nice remuneration for a civil servant with responsibility for driving down costs in the oil sector.

But OGA salaries are again a sideshow distraction from the main issue that, in tune with UK policy over the past 50 years, little consideration appears to have been given to maximisation of government take from this national resource.

Or indeed to maximisation of North Sea oil jobs. MER blatantly maximises return to super-rich oil companies and will presumably do no harm to parties with investments in oil companies. To its credit, the OGA report does disclose its directors’ shareholdings in oil companies or their use of blind trusts to signal their impartiality with respect to decisions of the OGA that might impact on their personal wealth.

What kind of rationale is there for maximising oil and gas output from the North Sea when prices are low? Is this policy inspired by Gordon Brown selling the UK’s gold reserves at rock-bottom prices? There must be a better way to protect Scottish oil interests.

Should the Scottish Government insist that the OGA set targets for government tax take and North Sea oil-related jobs to be maximised, rather than production?

In 2016-17 this tax take was negative! The government effectively paid the oil companies to increase production through tax rebates and investment allowances. And, according to Oil and Gas UK, total oil-related job losses in the North Sea was a staggering 60,000, some 20,000 higher than had been forecast.

According to Oil and Gas UK there is still a potential 24 billion barrels of oil equivalent that might be extracted from the UK continental shelf. The OGA report “estimates the baseline figure for remaining recoverable oil and gas to have increased to around 11 billion barrels, with a potential of up to 20 billion barrels including unrisked prospects and yet-to-find fields”. OGA quote a figure of £300 billion potential added value from oil-related activity.

Interesting. These estimates are not dramatically different from the figures used by the SNP in their estimates of future revenue prior to the 2014 referendum.

At the risk of being too repetitive, is it too late to plan the harvesting of whatever oil reserves remain, assuming they should be harvested at all, and at long last follow the Norwegian model? If 20 billion barrels remain, this is not far short of half of total production to date.

Should Holyrood be outraged with the loss of 60,000 jobs in one year given that government support for the industry in that period exceeded any tax returns from the industry? Has the time come for Westminster to devolve full control of Scotland’s share of North Sea reserves to Scotland?

In summary, international oil companies and billionaires appear to be in control of the levers of power with regards to exploitation of Scotland’s oil reserves. And maximisation of economic recovery must shift emphasis towards maximising national wealth rather than that of oil companies which seem happy to outsource jobs from Aberdeen to India when the mood takes them.

Who is gaining here and who is losing? Robbing paupers to pay princes? What influence has the so-called national bank of the UK, the Bank of England (beggars belief we accept this) had over this short-term approach to revenue generation? The UK cannot continue spending sprees on military and political interference in the affairs of other sovereign states. It is this harping back to our imperialistic past that forces other short-term actions to undersell our resources. An independent Scotland would not be burdened in this way.

The National:

Chapter Three: Westminster 'may be giving Scotland's oil away for free' - the shocking truth about tax breaks and decommissioning

GIVEN the scale of North Sea oil and gas plundering over the past 50 years it is not surprising to discover that approximately 600 installations will have to be decommissioned in the next 50 years.

It has always been an accepted principle that oil companies, after undertaking offshore well drilling and production, have an obligation to:

  • Plug and make safe the wells
  • Remove to shore for recycling or scrapping all the platform infrastructure
  • Remove all oil and gas debris from the seabed
  • Remove any oil trapped on sub-sea storage cells and remove the cells
  • Remove pipelines from the seabed

In other words, oil companies should restore the seabed cosmetically to its original condition. Estimates for the cost of the work involved have been as high as £70 billion. Who should meet this cost?

The total UK Government take from the North Sea oil and gas is of the order of £400 billion but that figure is approximately half of that obtained by Norway for similar production volumes. Logically that might mean the take of oil companies has been disproportionately high due to Westminster’s mismanagement.

Under those circumstances it would seem fair to the UK public that these fabulously wealthy oil companies should pay for the clear-up. Think again.

According to Economic Secretary to the Treasury Sajid Javid: “Oil and gas is one of the UK’s greatest industrial success stories, and the Government is committed to making the most of this valuable natural asset. That is why the Government announced earlier this year, as part of an ambitious package of oil and gas measures, that it would provide further certainty over tax relief for decommissioning.”

In other words, the Conservative Party agreed that UK taxpayers would pay approximately half the decommissioning cost. One would have hoped that given this fabulous concession there would be strings attached such as a requirement to maximise job retention and undertake all decommissioning work in Scotland. Ha. I keep forgetting the UK has not devolved such negotiating power to Holyrood!

The logic about giving this tax repayment assurance to oil companies was that it would free up spare cash for companies to make new investment in the North Sea.

However, currently and for the foreseeable future, oil prices will remain depressed and production from past and new investment is likely to result in reported accounting losses which will result in oil companies getting a repayment of previous tax paid.

The UK Treasury may well be giving away Scotland’s oil for free. Worse than that, the new investment will mean more decommissioning expense in the future that the UK taxpayer will have to pay!

There is good news and bad news. The good news for oil companies is that the final decommissioning costs are likely to be less than £70bn as Westminster, Oil and Gas UK and the Oil and Gas Authority will seek ways of reducing the cost. In the case of Shell and their Brent field decommissioning of installations of Eiffel Tower proportions and weighing 300,000 tonnes, their solution is simple.

Chop off the topsides and transport them out of Scotland for decommissioning, perform other tidying up of debris, but leave the giant legs and storage cells to adorn the Scottish North Sea.

Since the UK Government committed taxpayers to meet an expense that makes the cost of a Brexit divorce deal look like chickenfeed, they are likely to give the Shell plan the green light.

After all, the rusting hulks are well away from London. The protruding legs can have a little red flag attached to them to alert fishing boats and nuclear submarines not to get too close, or, who knows, might even make excellent target practice for UK war planes. This certainly cuts down the cost. But why on Earth should Scotland’s seabed become a dustbin to save oil companies the cost of clearing them up?

Leaving contaminated junk on the sea bed certainly cuts down the cost. But why on earth should Scotland’s seabed become a dustbin to save oil companies the cost of clearing them up? No-one would allow such an event happening in their garden. The argument that Shell didn’t design the structures to be decommissioned is frankly irrelevant at best and an indictment of the industry at worse.

And just try taking a half-empty tin of paint down to say Black Dog beach in Aberdeen, watch out for the seeping oil deposits dumped there by the oil industry, and bury it in the sands and attach a warning flag to it. You will be in prison before you have time to call your solicitor.

The bad news is that whatever counter claims are made the Scottish North Sea environment is being compromised.

Acceptance of the Shell plan also gives a green light for owners of other installations to make similar plans. And of course fewer jobs will be available if the model decommissioning procedures are not being fully implemented. Shell have boldly stated they have learned from the Brent Spar oil storage buoy debacle in 1995.

Basically, egged on by the UK Government, Shell simply wanted to sink Brent Spar in the North Sea and were only persuaded not to do so after intervention by Greenpeace and boycotts of Shell petrol stations.

It remains to be seen what the reaction will be to the Shell decommissioning plans.

Holyrood should insist on having full direct control over all economic activity including decommissioning of oil and gas installations situated in its territory.

All decommissioning work of installations in Scotland should be undertaken in Scotland. The decommissioning tax situation should be reviewed in light of the decommissioning plans being submitted by oil companies and of the disproportionate take given to oil companies from North Sea revenue.

With respect to Scotland, the cost of fully removing all parts of the installations should be calculated and if oil companies try to avoid that cost by partially removing the structures, then the difference in cost should be paid to Holyrood. That could be a useful contribution to Scotland’s missing Oil Fund!

The National:

Chapter Four: Fracking ban is welcome - but we also need to take the lead on US shale gas imports

TORPEDOS, napalm, nuclear detonations, kerosene, benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde...?

No, this is not a list of the UK’s nine best non-EU exports. Incredibly, all of the above, plus millions of tons of sand and water, have been used in the development of state-of-the-art fracking technology, which, in 2014, allowed more than 100 new wells to be opened up every day in America. The sheer scale of fracking over the past 10 years has basically caused economic mayhem across the globe and, arguably, nowhere has suffered more than Scotland. The world glut of oil and gas due to overproduction forced down oil prices from above $100 a barrel at the start of 2014 to a low of $59. At the current price of $56, North Sea oil and gas production appears to result in repayment of tax to oil companies rather than boosting the Treasury’s coffers.

On economic grounds alone, why on Earth would Scotland hesitate for more than 10 seconds in the face of the clear imperative to ban fracking in the most beautiful part of the UK? Thankfully, the SNP have now taken this decision – to the derision of oil companies and the Conservative Party.

There is a glut of shale gas fizzing out from over one million fracking wells in the US. Up to 40,000 barrels a day of this shale gas in liquefied form is being shipped by Ineos to Scotland. Large tankers chugging across the Atlantic must – in words Donald Trump might use about almost anything – be bad news. Certainly reducing drastically the volume of shipping across all oceans should be a priority for any nation with pretensions about caring for the environment. Protecting the oceans is as important as stopping climate change. If the US is dumping excess shale gas to any nation who’ll buy it the consequences don’t bear thinking about.

One solution might be to take our lead from the US’s proposed treatment of Bombardier – with its devastating impact on Northern Ireland – and impose a 300 per cent duty on shale gas imports. If other nations followed suit it might constitute a vital step to limiting and eventually stopping the use of fossil fuels.

Fracking in the UK would add to the world surplus of gas – or perhaps not if the research by Edinburgh academics on the unsuitability of the geological formations in the UK is to be believed. The rest of the UK should consider following Holyrood’s lead and refuse to endorse what might be termed a perversely destructive industrial process that will depress gas and oil prices and be yet another nail in the coffin of North Sea oil.

The shale reserves, if any, won’t deteriorate if they are preserved and should only be exploited when a better use is discovered for them and when Scotland gets some return from that exploitation.

The Conservatives in Scotland may regret giving their support for fracking and appearing to be content at the prospect of villages obtaining the odd new community hall in exchange for being subjected to an endless line of CO2-emitting lorries transporting fracking detritus across beautiful Scottish countryside while the super-rich boost their fortunes from Scotland’s shale reserves. Voters in Scotland will be far from content.

The US and the UK are not hesitant in declaring themselves leaders of the free world and guardians of moral actions. Fundamental to that view is that US and UK production processes set the gold standard for others to follow. Consequently, when the US Energy Information Administration has identified a list of countries with sizeable wet shale gas plays, the clear implication is that these countries should exploit those assets. Or, more likely, that US companies with the technical know-how and experience should be invited in to exploit those resources. That’s how capitalism works. However, in the case of fracking, the quantity of water required for fracking will inevitably lead to water being diverted from cultivation and from social uses in some countries where water is scarcer than oil and gas.

Just how culpable will the US and the UK be if developing countries go down the fracking route and goodness knows what disasters then happen to the population as a consequence?

Arguably there should be a worldwide moratorium or even ban on fracking. So why is the outright ban correct for Scotland?

Unsavoury historical facts

FRACKING started with experimenting with dropping torpedos down well shafts, compressing them with water and detonating them to blast access to oil. It then moved on to forcing water mixed with napalm into shale and then, believe it or not, climaxed in testing the extra output from nuclear explosions on oil and gas plays.

Not surprisingly, these early days failed to match the glory days of recent times for frackers who would be disappointed by the non-commerciality of radioactive oil and gas assets.

Current practice remains controversial. Each well requires the forcing of thousands of gallons of water laced with chemicals into miles of shale beds. The chemicals used are seldom revealed but have been reported to contain kerosene, benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde. Huge volumes of sand are then injected into the shattered shale as proppants to keep the blasted shale pores open.

Mile-deep vertical drilling can be followed with mile-long horizontal drilling. Most of the water used has to be recovered and decontaminated. Decontamination ponds are a feature of fracking.

Just think what the consequences of flash floods would be to these stagnant ponds. No amount of planning can cater for weather conditions which, in all likelihood, are a result of the oil industry supplying fuel-greedy countries with carbon-emitting fossil fuel.

Environmental and health concerns

AIR and noise contamination is a feature of fracking as hundreds of lorries are routinely used to transport sand and equipment around the countryside. Horror stories abound in the States of the harmful effects of fracking such as increased risk of cancer, water-course pollution, air pollution and even earthquakes.

Apparently, there were more than 60,000 responses to Holyrood’s public consultation of the desirability or not of allowing fracking to proceed with most of them voting in favour of protecting the environment and against fracking. The banning decision is a no-brainer regardless of how many oil billionaires it offends.

The National:

Chapter Five: How the West plundered the world in its mad pursuit of oil

IN my previous chapters, reference was made to the ethical and moral obligation on Scottish and UK governments to protect less developed and less technically aware countries from inflicting damage on their populations by following UK fuel-exploitation policies.

Part of the problem has been the West’s belief that unbelievably powerful multinational companies will act ethically while being essentially the West’s colonial fuel-gathering pioneers.

The capitalist vision of their countries enjoying everlasting economic growth based on innovative entrepreneurial practices of global companies infiltrating and reaping the benefits of other countries mineral assets is plainly not sustainable.

Indeed it verges on being better described as morally repugnant and little more than an environmentally disastrous giant Ponzi scheme where established corporations boost their incomes through persuading other countries to increase their income streams by buying the expertise of the companies.

In the economic free market battlefield if there are winners then there must be losers. It is a zero-sum game. Maximisation of shareholder wealth-driven companies should be brought to heel. And governments which surrender policy decision-making to the corporate sector are anachronistic. Is it coincidence that many countries possessing fabulous reserves of oil and gas have had their governments and leaders undermined, their ability to exploit their wealth thwarted at every turn, economic sanctions imposed on them and indeed, on occasion, their countries bombed and invaded?

Over the past 50 years or so a large proportion of the world’s reserves of oil and gas, created over many millions of years, have been squandered. It is timely to remind ourselves why that has happened.

The aforementioned colonial impact of the multinational oil companies cannot be overstated. Initially the game was all about getting access to the world’s easily accessible reserves and paying as little as possible for them. Getting access to the Middle East’s reserves was relatively easy as all the then-current technical knowledge and drilling equipment were the property of several large oil companies.

These companies would, of course, helpfully design the contracts that would determine how the proceeds of the oil sales would be split between host country and the companies. Any attempt to increase profits for the countries owning the reserves by, say, increasing the oil price or the terms of the contracts was fiercely resisted.

No industry did more to make the US economy globally dominant than its oil corporations. Bargain price oil and gas shipped to the US fuelled its car, engineering, and military industries. Americans thrived on filling monster cars with cheap petrol (gas guzzlers) and establishing themselves as the greediest consumers of oil and gas in the world. In 2016 the top three countries as a percentage of world oil consumption were (1) the US with 20.3 per cent (2) China with 12.8 per cent and (3) India with 4.6 per cent. The total oil consumed was 96,558,000 barrels!

Given the relative population differences between China, India and the US it is easy to see that the US occupies the unenviable position of greediest oil consumer by a considerable margin. If oil consumption with its high CO2 emissions is a primary driver of climate change then with respect to oil’s share of climate change the US should carry the (oil) can for approximately 1/5th of the resultant damage. Incredibly the US under Donald Trump now appears to be a climate change denier and even withdrew from its obligations in the Paris accord.

World GDP is expected to double between now and 2035. Corresponding energy demand might rise by 30 per cent. If fossil fuels retain anything like their current share of the energy mix then climate change mayhem of cataclysmic proportions looms.

What can be done, apart from the addressing the elephant in the room — the necessity to reduce world population rather than see it exponentially increase?

It is unimaginable to think that a better use for oil will not be found rather than burning it by converting it to petroleum. Future generations across the globe have been robbed by the West’s insatiable greed for oil and gas. Future historians will not show the West as the moral caring people it believes itself to be. Is there a better time to stop production and at least conserve what reserves of oil remain? From now on, let’s concentrate our effort into producing energy from renewable sources. In the same way that Scotland has shown ethical and moral leadership in banning fracking they should also ban nuclear power plants.

If an ironic green light is given to the use of nuclear power and every other country decides to follow suit then the stockpiles of nuclear waste will constitute catastrophic accidents waiting to happen. The dire consequences that can emerge from a proliferation of nuclear plants across the globe is close to an Armageddon situation.

Short-term expediency, which itself is questionable, on the part of the UK to allow Chinese development of nuclear facilities is nothing short of a moral and ethical failure by Westminster.

In any case, the true cost of nuclear energy once decommissioning costs are taken into account looks prohibitive. The less opportunities given to countries to consider developing nuclear weapons the better. In that regard, the SNP should continue its onslaught against renewing Trident.

Magic money trees seem to sprout out of the concrete jungle conurbation of London to fund the hosting of Olympic Games, World Cup venues, the refurbishment of the Houses of parliament and building nuclear submarines.

Morally and ethically it reflects badly on the UK that the lack of a magic money tree seems to apply primarily to denying inflation– linked salary increases to low paid public sector workers and to reducing benefits that support the poorest in society.

The National:

Chapter Six: Westminster's plundering of Scotland’s oil is the definitive argument for independence

IN our previous five chapters on the UK’s management of Scotland’s share of North Sea oil various themes emerged. First, Scottish people were likely to have been misled by UK Government Ministers about the economic potential of Scottish oil wealth.

Second, Westminster’s fanaticism concerning the virtues of free markets led them to privatise state-controlled oil companies.

Third, Westminster’s reliance on these multinational companies resulted in a pitiful deal on government share of revenue from the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, in comparison to Norway’s management of almost identical assets.

Fourth, Westminster’s obsession with maximising production as quickly as possible regardless of the price of oil reduced government take even further.

Fifth, the oil tax take of £400 billion (large yet perhaps half or even one-third of what it should have been) was squandered by Westminster on investment in London, reducing and paying off interest on the UK Government’s national debt.

Sixth, the disproportionate nature of the Scottish ownership of the oil and gas extracted from the North Sea and handed to oil companies and Westminster effectively destroys any notion that Scotland still owns a share of the national debt.

Seventh, the Wood Review and the creation of the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) as regulator myopically continued the practice of maximising production even when this leads to negative tax receipts to the Exchequer, yet is consistent with maximisation of economic recovery to the oil companies.

Eighth, given that 600,000 oil-related jobs were lost in 2016/17 why, oh why does the OGA not have as its main target maximisation of oil jobs and maximisation of economic recovery to the taxpayer, who after all owns the oil and gas?

Ninth, Scotland’s offshore region, thanks to oil companies and Westminster, is unacceptably being earmarked as a dumping ground for derelict contaminated towers of Eiffel Tower proportions.

Tenth, unless oil companies adhere strictly to their accepted commitment to restore the Scottish seabed at least cosmetically to its original condition, the decision of Westminster to grant a no-strings-attached tax allowance for undertaking decommissioning should be revisited.

Eleventh, the ethical and moral leadership that Scottish people expect from their government, and as exemplified by the SNP in banning fracking in Scotland, must take priority over short-term economic gain.

Twelfth, where national assets are being exploited and that includes use of Scotland’s unmatched beautiful glens, lochs and mountains, then Holyrood must have its hand on the tiller as clearly companies obsessed with maximisation of shareholder wealth cannot be trusted with job.

Thirteenth, it is vital that Scotland assumes a world-leading role in promoting renewable energy and, yes, consider a moratorium on fossil fuel exploitation and certainly on nuclear energy generation.

And finally, the clear unequal treatment of Scotland in the oil and gas game has lessons for a range of inequality issues that the SNP should set about redressing!

Lessons from the North Sea Fiasco

The decks have been and are stacked against Scotland’s economic prospects. A London-centric Westminster government overinvests in the south of England and has utilised Scottish assets to do so. What should happen now? A definitive list of grievances that need addressing would fill a book of non-fiction status.

Scotland’s oil and gas has been grabbed by Westminster as a UK asset and the revenues have been invested in England. Just one example: investment in London’s airports has been astronomical. Londoners, as a consequence, enjoy cheaper flights across the world compared to flights from Scotland.

Brexit arose as a consequence of right-wing old Etonian members of the Tory Party demanding a referendum on the UK remaining part of the UK. These are the same disproportionately government represented class that have permitted Scotland’s Great Oil Swindle.

That demand was hyped up to fever pitch by the Tory press with their anti-immigration comments and wild claims about how much better off the National Health Service would be after leaving the EU. Frankly this Little England outlook must make the UK a laughing stock in the rest of the world. The blame for the consequent Leave vote rests with the Tory Party. The blame for the fall in the value of sterling rests with the Tory Party. The absence of a “money tree” apart from when buying the support of Ulster Unionists rests with the Conservatives. There should not be a day that goes by without an onslaught against the Tories for this damaging to Scotland situation.

How can one partner to the UK be taken out of the EU when it voted to stay in the EU? How can Theresa May deny another call for an independence referendum once the result of the so-called Brexit negotiations are finalised, given that a main plank of Unionist rhetoric prior to the 2014 referendum was that a Yes vote would leave Scotland outside the EU and a No vote would keep us inside the EU?

Arguably, the terms of the Brexit referendum were flawed. All partners should have had to vote to leave and if only England voted to leave they should have granted Scotland its independence and allow Scotland to remain part of the EU club.

In the same way that the UK’s GDP generating powers should not be delegated to the corporate sector, the Government should take its own decisions on interest rate setting and not rely on the Bank of England.

The value of sterling has been affected by quantitative easing and almost zero interest rates. Again, some corporate giants that deal in dollars will have seen their share values rise while the average citizen and public-sector worker now struggles to make ends meet. The Bank of England should, as the name says on the tin, speak only for England. If it wants to be a genuine national bank of the UK then it should change its name with immediate effect.

Disadvantaged Scots living in deprived areas and not helped by the bias in the educational system have a life expectancy that old Etonians would either fail to appreciate or be prompted to make wisecracks in Latin about dead bodies. This inequality could be reduced by paying a higher pension so that each individual receives the same total amount. The current system means the deprived in Scotland are subsidising the pensions of rich Londoners and old Etonians.

Finally, Holyrood should have absolute control of all economic activity within its offshore and onshore boundaries. The gleeful recent press and Westminster reaction to Norway’s national oil company, Statoil, declaring huge oil finds in the Moray Firth basin is the ultimate insult to the Scottish nation.

Effectively, this means Scottish oil will be boosting the Norwegian oil fund! And any tax paid by Statoil will go to Westminster. Come on Holyrood, how long can we let this situation continue?

If Westminster refuses to budge on this brief set of examples of what should happen to help reduce the inequalities in the current system – roll on another independence referendum after Brexit.