The Scottish Government has confirmed that oil exploration off south-west Scotland could go ahead post-independence. This has the potential to transform the economy in the west of Scotland.
It recently came to light that the Ministry of Defence blocked a potential oil boom in the Firth of Clyde during the 1980s. BP undertook seismic surveys south of Arran and east of Kintyre in early 1981.
However, the MoD were “very strongly opposed to any drilling” according to a briefing for Scottish Secretary George Younger. Any Firth of Clyde drilling program would potentially have interfered with MoD operations, including the operation of the nuclear weapons submarine fleet at Faslane.
Since then, no known investigation of oil reserves on the west coast has taken place. After a Yes vote the removal of nuclear weapons would open up this massive area for oil and gas exploration.
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, has confirmed that after an independence vote the Scottish Government would consider applications for exploratory oil and gas drilling rights off the south-west coast of Scotland.
The Minister was replying to a letter written by Norman Geddes, Managing Partner at Frazer Coogans Commercial Solicitors, based in Ayr, as well as executive chairman of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle to First Minister Alex Salmond.
In his letter to Alex Salmond, Mr Geddes referred to recent newspaper revelations that revealed that in the 1980s, the UK Ministry of Defence blocked oil companies from making further exploration off the coast of south-west Scotland after initial tests had indicated the likely presence in the area of recoverable reserves of oil and gas.
The reason given at the time was the proximity of the Trident base at Faslane, and that further drilling activities might interfere with nuclear submarine exercises.
These facts have come to light as a result of Freedom of Information requests by Chic Brodie MSP, and have been reported by Andrew Picken in three separate articles in the “Sunday Post” newspaper.
In his letter the Minister wrote: “With independence, Scotland will obtain full control of offshore licensing and leases, which will create new opportunities to deliver community benefits from offshore development while giving due regard to the diverse marine environment. If there are exploration opportunities off Scotland’s shores then it is clear that these should be fully considered and encouraged where appropriate to do so.
“All proposals for exploration will be considered on their individual merits, and I would reiterate that there will be no “no-go” areas for exploration in Scottish waters.”
Norman Geddes commented: “I would like to congratulate Chic Brodie for his tireless efforts to bring this matter into the public domain, and Andrew Picken for his almost single-handed reporting of our efforts in the “Sunday Post”.
“If oil and gas are discovered off our coastline in recoverable quantities, it would transform the economy of Ayrshire and South-West Scotland, and also provide a significant boost to the prosperity of Scotland as a whole.”
But what about the environment?
As Business for Scotland has pointed out before the longer term value of oil will come from using oil as a petrochemical ingredient in the manufacturing of plastics, drugs and other added value processes that are just not possible when oil runs out. Simply extracting and burning it will make little sense economically in the near future as it does in environmental terms. As the Scottish Greens recently stated:
“We need to leave a great deal of our oil and gas in the ground, or support a more diverse range of petrochemical uses which don’t involve greenhouse gas emissions”.
“Scotland has the skills to do that, and with the usable portion of oil and gas funding public investment in renewables to replace future revenue, we have the opportunity to make this transition rapidly. The UK will only ever see North Sea oil as a revenue source; Scotland could see it as a springboard, taking us from reliance on polluting and finite energy sources to the cleantech of the future”.
Well done to Chic Brodie MSP and Norman Geddes of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle. The significant economic implications for Scotland of lifting the UK Governments / MOD ban on exploration is only possible with independence.
The UK Government are determined to replace Trident at a massive cost the taxpayer. Scotland needs to spend its share of that massive cost, including a £500,000,000 saving a year with a conventional defence force, on stimulating economic growth and meeting the social needs of our population.