THE prospect of building an oil fund for Scotland is long gone, but the country’s other resources now offer “major opportunities”, according to the author of the McCrone report.

A paper by Professor Gavin McCrone in 1974 famously predicted an independent Scotland would amass “embarrassing” wealth as a result of oil.

He criticised Thatcher’s government in the 1980s for missing the opportunity to set up an oil fund similar to the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund.

He told the Sunday National: “I regret that didn’t happen, I think it should have happened and I think it probably could have happened in the early 1980s when the Conservative Government came in, as they could have afforded to do it.

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“At the time it was raised, the Labour Government were in the midst of a financial crisis all the time.

“And it wasn’t really until the revenues came through on a big scale that you could do it – and that was in the 1980s.

“So it was in the 1980s the opportunity was missed in my opinion.”

In his book After Brexit: The Economics Of Scottish Independence, McCrone said the opportunity for an oil fund was “long gone” and Scotland cannot “hark back to what might have been” if it becomes independent.

He added: “Oil may still play a significant but smaller part in Scotland for many years yet, but with the resource dwindling and concern for climate change now an increasingly important issue, Scotland has to look to other resources, of which it is fortunate to have many, to generate its energy.

“These also offer major opportunities and policy must now be directed at ensuring these are used for the benefit of Scotland and her people.”

McCrone said he had forgotten about his infamous report until it was unearthed under freedom of information laws.

Written when he was chief economic adviser at the Scottish Office after the first election of 1974 was called, in the paper he argued the then outgoing Conservative Government led by Edward Heath had underestimated the financial importance of the developments

in the North Sea in public statements.

His report said the advent of North Sea oil had “completely overturned the traditional economic arguments used against Scottish nationalism”.

It added: “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.”

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IT said that “for the first time since the Act of Union was passed, it can now be credibly argued that Scotland’s economic advantage lies in its repeal”.

The report was classified as “secret” and given a restricted circulation because of the “extreme sensitivity of the subject”.

It only came to light in 2005 following a Freedom of Information request by an SNP researcher and was published in full by The National in 2019.

However, McCrone said: “It wasn’t hushed up at all – it was never meant to be publicised.”