THE SNP have hailed a huge increase in the amount of oil and gas Scotland is forecast to produce over the next 30 years.

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) now predicts 11.9 billion barrels will be extracted by 2050 – almost 50% up from the eight billion barrels forecast four years ago – following the lowering of production costs and new finds in the North Sea.

SNP MSP Maureen Watt said: “These latest revisions to OGA forecasts confirm the major economic potential that North Sea oil reserves have to offer. Successive UK governments have sold Scotland’s oil industry short – downplaying the bright future of the sector and syphoning off revenues to plug black holes in the Treasury.

“Make no mistake, this is great news for our oil and gas industry. However, we must not be complacent and allow for Scotland’s revenues to be used to cover the costs of Tory tax cuts for rich. A portion of oil revenues should be invested in a fund for future generations, as most other oil-producing countries have done – something which will ensure there is a positive economic and social legacy from our oil wealth.

“With a host of industries booming, such as our food and tourism sectors, Scotland is a hugely wealthy country even without oil and gas. But the only way to ensure Scotland’s valuable natural resources are invested here in Scotland, and not squandered by Westminster, is through independence.”

Meanwhile, offshore workers in the North Sea went on strike yesterday in the first of five days of industrial action amid a dispute over planned changes to shift patterns.

Unite members on the Total Elgin, North Alwyn and Dunbar platforms started a 24-hour stoppage. A further four strikes are set for March 19 and 27 and April 2 and 12. Aker and Petrofac have proposed a change to the on-off shift rotation from two weeks on, three weeks off to a three-three and three-four basis. A reduction to terms and conditions by parent company Total is also part of the dispute.