Deputy First Minister John Swinney has brought oil and gas back into focus as part of the SNP’s bid for independence, saying its rising profits could be invested in an oil fund for Scotland, rather than donated to the Treasury. Mr Swinney cited expert predictions that taxation on the North Sea shelf around Scotland will rise this year from £3.5billion to £13billion as a result of the crisis energy resulting from the invasion of Ukraine and the growing demand after the lockdown. But the plans are at odds with the SNP’s coalition partners.
It comes after SNP ministers, along with their Green Party partners, said they wanted to ‘degrade’ the industry, leading Scottish Tories to call Ms Sturgeon’s latest move ‘extraordinary’.
The Deputy First Minister released official figures revealing that Scotland’s deficit had shrunk by more than 10% last year, to 12.3%. The report attributes this to oil and gas revenues made from North Sea oil, which rose from £800m to £3.5bn.
Figures also showed Scots received almost £2,000 more in public spending than the UK average last year, amid a record ‘Union dividend’. Yesterday Mr Swinney was asked about the figures and suggested the huge tax receipts were an indicator of Scotland’s ability to be independent.
He told BBC Radio Scotland: “What I want to tell you is that Scotland at the moment, when £13 billion in oil revenue is being generated, is not an independent country. What I mean is that if we were independent, we would be able to make those decisions and invest for the long term, which we cannot do because of the UK arrangements.”
Asked specifically about the SNP’s opposition to allowing more oil to be extracted from the North Sea, Mr Swinney claimed Scotland was “an energy-rich country in all scenarios”. He went on to cite the potential of Scottish renewables.
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The writer added: “One thing is clear. If the SNP is even half-serious about achieving its record-breaking, gold-plated, world-beating climate targets, it needs to pull the oil and gas money out of its independence prospectus – and do it now, so conclusive.
Scottish Conservative Liz Smith said the SNP had made it clear during recent Holyrood debates that they wanted to ‘shrink’ the industry, while their Green coalition partners want it to ‘shut down completely’.
She said of the recent U-turn: “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say Scotland is thriving on oil and gas revenues while having policies that are about to crush them. . . It doesn’t fit.”