Scottish independence: dead in the oil and water?

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The Scottish National Party are in the news again. The Fiscal Affairs Scotland (FAS) think-tank has come up with figures apparently showing that, given the slump in oil prices, an independent Scotland would be more than £7 billion worse off. And even if oil prices made a comeback, an independent Scotland would still be in deep financial trouble.

The other reasons the SNP are in the news is that they’re planning an away-day of all their MSPs, MPs and MEPs. Angus Robertson, the party’s Westminster leader says that “all of us need to get our trainers on and door-knock for 2017 and beyond”.

As to the slump in oil prices, which of course has delighted the Remain in the UK people, even without any revenue from oil, Scotlad’s GDP is less tha 1% lower than the rest of the UK. And while Scotland is glad to have any oil income, “the Scottish economy is much bigger than the oil industry and there are lots of areas that will benefit from lower oil prices”. That’s the UK premier economic think-tank, the Frase of Allander Institute, quoted in the Financial Times.

One final point on Scottish oil. In 1974 the McCrone Report state that North Sea oil would have made an independent Scotland the second richest country in Europe. Both Conservative and Labour governments in Westminster quietly filed the report away and Maggie Thatcher used the oil revenue to destroy the coal industry. Wouldn’t it have been interesting if the McClone Report had been widely available to Scottish people at the time?

There are two matters regarding Scotland that need to be kept in mind and that we could learn from. First, many Scots have come to realize, particularly in the light of the BREXIT vote, that England doesn’t give a damn about their welfare. The second is that through the Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish people have had a focused, detailed look at what independence might look like. A majority voted to stay in the UK. But the +5% who need to be won over are far from immoveable. That’s why the Scottish independence movement, instead of collapsing after the independence referendum was lost, is gaining more ground by the day and why, in Angus Robertson’s words, they’ll be getting their trainers on for 2017 and beyond. They know that personal financial gain isn’t the only thing that matters to the Scottish people.

Isn’t it time we adopted some of their optimism and strategies?


14 Responses to Scottish independence: dead in the oil and water?

  1. Antaine de Brún September 2, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    Perhaps there is a need to ponder the real reason for the slump in oil prices given the seismic changes that are taking place in the global economy. Perhaps there is a need to ponder why political opponents are urging the SNP to ditch the constitutional debate.

    A letter to The Scotsman states:

    “Starting a new independence campaign now will only add fresh uncertainty to Scotland’s future at a time when small and large businesses are looking for stability from all layers of government.”

    Kezia Dugdale, the Labour leader has made it clear that she expects party members to oppose independence.

    Oil is hydrophobic. It would appear that those who oppose independence in Scotland and Ireland are autophobic as well as being fresh out of optimism or strategies.

  2. jessica September 2, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    Imagine, Edinburgh could have been the financial capital of Britain, not London.

    The wealth and industry could have went north instead of to the south of England.

    But it worked, Scotland has been institutionalised and England now has them under their cosh.

    Still, I would prefer to be poor but free than a supplicant to a despot.

  3. Perkin Warbeck September 2, 2016 at 9:46 am #


    Take Wee James Connolly ‘Jinky ’ Jay
    As a good example of Scots Wha Hae
    The laddie of the nut meg
    Had not to kneel and beg
    He’d not be for Scottish Independence Day?

  4. Colmán September 2, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    Are they saying that the price of oil will never go up again?

    • Ryan September 2, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

      “Are they saying that the price of oil will never go up again?”

      They are saying whatever it takes to make Scottish people think Scottish Independence is a very bad idea…..

  5. John Patton September 2, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

    There is an inevitability about a second independence referendum. However, Nicola Sturgeon recognises that there are icebergs to be circumnavigated and that it will not be rerun of 2014. The circumstances are considerably different – Brexit and the demise of the Labour Party have sharply altered the focus. The shenanigans in the British Labour Party look certain to ensure the continuing return of a Tory Govt at Westminster for some time to come. As Colmán points out, oil price fluctuates and Scotland’s plentiful reserves are still a hugely valuable resource. The Scottish Govt has got be seen to be tackling social justice issues and promoting the ant-austerity line.A substantial number of those who voted LEAVE in Scotland, also were on the YES side in the Referendum – for the most part, these are the poor and the marginalised making a protest as we saw in the NE of England. There is still popular, if not majority support here for Independence. People do not want their lives socially and economically affected by a Westminster Government which they didn’t elect and who shows little interest in their welfare. The next time, the campaign must not allow itself to be railroaded by what the south wants- the Fear factor belly flopped on the EU and is a non runner now, if I may confuse metaphors. Theresa May is currently making the running with a ragbag cabinet – let’s give her another front to fight on. Scotland is pro-immigration; our economy depends on it and most people as the EU vote showed are tolerant , humane individuals who are deeply upset that a major change in foreign affairs is being imposed upon them. Sturgeon has already toured the EU capitals and is confident that there would be a warm welcome for an independent Scotland. She will not commit to adopting the Euro which would be a very hard sell to voters. I think that they should eschew talk of a Scottish pound and go for our own currency Now, the door is open to argue that the Brexit vote reflects a Little England mentality, and that only Scottish independence offers the chance to cooperate fully with our European partners. In Scotland, cosmopolitan voters will share a campaign with nationalist voters. Nicola Sturgeon has already perfected the look of someone pissed off with UK Government incompetence, reluctantly proposing a second referendum to deal with the mess, and able to reject most arguments about economic and political uncertainty as bloody rich coming from the people who just voted to leave the EU. Salmond might have looked too (‘I told you so’) smug to pull it off, but Sturgeon looks genuinely annoyed rather than opportunistic.

    Who can perform the same function for the No side? There are almost no London-based politicians that could generate the same kind of respect that Sturgeon enjoys. Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, is the next best thing, but she will spend a fair amount of each debate being a bit embarrassed about the situation in which she finds herself, through no fault of her own.

    Sorry to have gone on a bit, Jude,but I note that you have other contributors who share my difficulty in offering concise responses to complex issues.

  6. Oz 2015 September 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    I think i have the following right.
    But I believe Scotland has got something like 90% of all the Fresh Water in Britain.
    Anybody who ever paid a water bill knows what a valuable resource that is.
    Ergo stuff the oil.
    my geography /geology is poor but Scotland is also unique in that it has glaciers.

    In twenty, thirty years time they may well be shipping down tankers of Fresh Water to the SE of England and making a handsome profit too.

    In the 1970’s when Irish Whiddy island oil facility was open. Saudi Arabia considered filling up empty supertankers with Irish Fresh water after discharging the oil. A true if little known fact.
    Scotland abu.
    And may they make a better job of it than Free State Gombeanistas.
    Where water is paid for; but Apples are Free

  7. Ryan September 2, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    “Isn’t it time we adopted some of their optimism and strategies?”

    It is indeed, you would think the like of Sinn Fein/SDLP would’ve done that years ago. Of course the Quest for Irish Unity isn’t the monopoly of just SF/SDLP, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael also support Irish Unity and should be doing much more to progress towards it. Contesting elections North of the border would be a nice start. Fine Gael Youth recently voted in favour to hold a border poll.

    The SNP have never based the argument for Scottish Independence solely on Oil. They have said that they would use the Oil revenue in a similar way as Norway has: build up a fund worth billions for the future, to invest and to grow the economy in many other sectors. Scotland doesn’t need Oil to prosper and nor does it need the crumbs from the English table, as many Unionists allege.

    Scottish Independence is about much more than money. Its about Scots taking control of their own destiny, their own affairs and taking back the powers Westminster has over the Scottish Parliament. After the Scottish Independence referendum was held (and lost) the SNP gained tens of thousands of new members. Another referendum is now inevitable due to brexit, and its one I believe the SNP will now win, despite the slump in Oil prices.

    But what about here in the North of Ireland? Well the economic case for Irish Unity is obvious but is, in my opinion, deliberately suppressed by the media. “The Northern State has been a disaster”, those aren’t my words but the words of Economist David McWilliams. True, we receive a few billion a year from Westminster but ditching Stormont, having one administration on this island, having one health service, etc alone would save billions and make up for what Westminster gives. Growing the private sector while shrinking the public sector will also save (and make) billions. According to a study from a Canadian University, Irish Unity would cause Irish GDP to jump by £25 BILLION in just 8 years, most of the growth in the North.

    So the choice is clear: If we have Irish Unity we create a new, richer and better country. Or we can keep what we have now: constant political instability, motivated by sectarian tribalism. An Economy that is in shit creek and isn’t far off from being mistaken for something from the 3rd World (Caterpillar is the latest company to fly the nest) and which is already dependent on the crumbs from the English table. A society that is similar to the societies that existed in the 17th century, during Europe’s religious wars…..

    I know what I am voting for when the time comes…..

    • Robert September 3, 2016 at 8:04 am #

      So you have found one economist who agrees with your views on Irish unity and how prosperous we would be after Irish unity.The truly telling thing is that you were only able to find one just one.

      Is it any wonder i dont have any confidence in your words.

      • Ciarán September 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

        i think youll find ryan mentioned two sources that have said a united Ireland would be good for the economy on this island. but you go ahead with your blind unionist dismissing of everything and keep singing from the same old blinkered hymn sheet that is unionism

  8. Am Ghobsmacht September 2, 2016 at 7:15 pm #

    I take all these doom-saying prophets with a pinch of salt.

    If I were pro-independence I’d take a long term view and prepare the people for some foul tasting medicine.

    If Scotland were to suffer immediately from UK withdrawal then it’s currency would be devalued.

    From this point they could mount a rebound.

    Cheaper cost of manufacturing for starters.
    If they were smart with their tax incentives e.g. NO tax on manufacturing exports then that could help turn things around.

    They could adopt a Norwegian approach to the oil e.g. domestic engineering support instead of buying in American gear.

    Another shot in the manufacturing arm.

    The potential for energy production is fantastic; wind, tidal, coal seam gas, hydro, hydrocarbons.

    I believe independence would be painful for the first generation, after that Scotland could do very well, they’d just have to bolster their manufacturing and engineering (as is their natural inclination) and severely clip the wings of the embedded benefit culture.

    The oil argument is a distraction, oil = easy money.

    Ireland, to her credit has shown what can be done with limited resources and a very encumbered starting block (which it was; civil war, lack of investment, partition, war with Britain etc) and has also shown the pitfalls to be avoided.

    Scotland would do well to take the best aspects of Ireland’s advances and tweak it accordingly.

    Though a unionist I can’t profess to adhere to the economic doom mongers and I confess my objections to Scotland going it alone are less and less.

    • jessica September 2, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

      I agree that they should not be taken for another ride over the value of their oil.

      There has been a drastic reduction in the volume of oil produced even though there are more oilfields now than ever before. If the profitability of oil was not going to rebound, they would not be still adding to them and England would not keep open non profitable oil fields in Scotland for very long.

      This coordinated reduction in oil production will leave oil below demand when the over produced reserves run out in a few years time which will not only put the price up again, but when India who’s economy is growing at the same pace as Chinas before it became a global industrial powerhouse could lead to a massive shortage in oil putting the price per barrel higher than it even has been.

      I would encourage the Scottish people to have courage to choose what they want in their hearts and not allow scare tactics to thwart their aspirations ever again.

  9. Mike Cummings September 2, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    Spot on. You highlight a front in the battle for minds that trainers will not help. Not sure about the Fraser Report you cite but sometimes you can tell how trustworthy and/or biased a report is by who is on their Board, staff, where they get their funds from for the research and what are the underlying assumptions relied upon for their forecasting. Usually a Board filled with military types, QC’s and one or two Lords or Dames is indicative of a hatchet job for whatever Whitehall interests are at that time. A good example The Price of Peace by Michael Gove and the Center for Policy Studies in London.

  10. Sherdy September 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

    All this talk of natural resources and Scottish oil makes one feel envious at the Irish lack of such potential prosperity.
    Just think if oil or gas had been discovered off the Mayo coast and one of the big oil companies, for the sake of argument, lets say Shell, got the contract to get it into production, what a fortune the government would make.
    But then the dream turned into a real nightmare – some silly twat of a taoiseach (like Bertie Ahern) actually GAVE the drilling and production rights to Shell!
    Somebody tell me I got the details of that dream/nightmare totally wrong, and that the government are making €millions in royalties.