THE story of modern Scotland is the story of oil. The story of oil is, increasingly, the story of how a very small number of individuals enriched themselves at the expense of the entire planet.

The only word that fits a crime of such awesome magnitude, omnicide — the act of causing the extinction of humanity — speaks of something too strange and terrible to comprehend. This is why our response to it must be simple, clear and relatable: a new drive towards public ownership and democratic control.

Many readers of this paper will be members of a generation that saw first hand how Scotland, uniquely for a nation flush with newly discovered hydrocarbon wealth, de-industrialised faster than anyone could have imagined.

The former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey reckoned that without North Sea oil, the UK would have been bankrupt by 1983. In a bitter twist of historic irony – the UK that emerged intact and invigorated out of the eighties, sustained by the symbiotic relationship between big oil and City financiers, seemed alien to Scotland.

Witnessing the degradation of what happens when decisions are taken elsewhere and when the capacity of people to control their own lives is taken from them has shaped Scottish politics ever since.

What can be done with Scotland’s great reserves of alienation that stem from the democratic deficit and social injustices experienced during those years?

The new streams of black gold that started flowing from two new platforms perched above the sandstone seabed west of Shetland last week, on the Clair Ridge, no longer provide an easy answer.

It’s not Scotland’s oil. It’s not the UK’s oil. The reserves of hydrocarbon wealth that lie under the North Sea sit on the books of a plethora of multi-national oil companies and private equity firms. Removed from reality and the consequences of their actions, these companies will happily profit from growing oil consumption into the second half of the century: unless governments, and the people who elect them, intervene.

An independent Scotland may wish to stake a claim to its own natural resources, based on new-found sovereignty, and then seek to share out the spoils in the form of a Norway-style oil fund. But in the first instance, it will have to combat the UK’s extreme ideological commitment to allowing multinational corporations to guide every aspect of energy policy: from how oil comes out of the ground, to how metered electricity enters the home.

At the heart of any coherent energy policy must be a willingness to start again based on the lessons from the socially disastrous transitions away from coal and other heavy industries. This would require extensive planning, regulation and, ultimately, the cohesive management of energy resources by a publicly owned energy company.

With enough public support and political will, what oil reserves we have left can then become assets to be leveraged, in order to build the foundations of a new, just, energy system. Without transferring that wealth to new green technologies, in a multi-billion pound new deal, there will quite literally be no time left to enjoy the fruits of a sovereign wealth fund.

But we should be in no doubt that this will be a tough task for a new country. Current policy in the North Sea is premised on providing enormous tax breaks for decommissioning, to keep big oil companies operating largely on their own terms.

There is a deep seam of carbon running through Scotland’s history, promising great riches, but seldom delivering justice for those who work it. If we’re going to write a new chapter in that history together, we need to seize the initiative now.

The Scottish Government’s recently announced Just Transition commission could provide the strategic direction required for action — but we’ll all have to put our shoulders to the wheel to make it a reality.