THE SNP have renewed demands for oil and gas revenues to be devolved to Holyrood to help grow Scotland’s economy, create jobs and invest in the future.

It came after the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) estimated that more than 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) remained in the North Sea – enough to maintain production beyond the next two decades.

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The figures were based on production estimates from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), the waters surrounding the UK in which the country has mineral rights.

However, the OGA believed it would require substantial investment in new fields and incremental projects.

The SNP said the Treasury has long treated the North Sea as a cash cow, siphoning off billion of pounds in revenues over the past 50 years, with little reinvestment by Westminster.

It said a report earlier this year showed that had these revenues been invested in a Norway-style sovereign wealth fund in the 1980s, that fund would be worth more than £500bn now.

Its Growth Commission had also recommended that future North Sea income should be treated as a windfall and invested for future generations.

MSP Maureen Watt, who has worked in the industry and co-convenes Holyrood’s cross-party group on oil and gas, said it was encouraging news for a sector that was on the up after some years of stagnation.

“With people now returning to work, it’s important we support those jobs over the long term and maximise the potential gain from these remaining reserves,” she said.

“That’s why it was so absolutely astounding – with drilling activity this year at a 40-year low – that there was nothing in last week’s Budget to support new exploration and development.

“We’re at a crucial juncture, and the Tories sat on their hands. This report by the UK Government’s own Oil and Gas Authority sees the need for investment, but not the Chancellor himself.

“Over the past decades successive UK governments have squandered billions in North Sea revenues, with little reinvested in Scotland’s economy. We shouldn’t make those same mistakes again. It’s high time that we took control of oil and gas revenues here in Scotland – allowing us to use these more wisely to grow our economy, create jobs, realise our potential and build for the future.”

One of Scotland’s top energy sector academics, professor Alex Russell, has repeatedly called for Scotland to establish a sovereign oil fund, including in a series of articles for The National in October last year.

“What they’ve got to do is look at the split of actual revenue that comes in and if the bulk of the profit is being made by the oil companies and not the UK or Scottish governments, then it is mismanagement by the governments of the oil resources, which rightfully belong to Scotland and not the UK,” he said. “We’ve got to maximise the return to the country for the long-term good of the country and the only way to do that is to have a sovereign oil fund that should have been there right from the word go.”

Russell added that the oil companies should also be held fully accountable for “understated” environmental damage they had done to the North Sea.

“Regardless of the cost to the oil companies, the de-commissioning aspect of cleaning up the North Sea must be done as it was anticipated, that they clean up everything and leave nothing on the sea bed – particularly if they’re using the same kind of cleansing mechanism they used in the past that has resulted in plastic being spread across the North Sea. The consequences of that can be felt for generations to come and that’s why we need a sovereign fund to help out, if necessary, in years to come.”