In his government’s White Paper on Independence for Scotland – which spells out the scale of Scottish energy assets in oil, gas, wind and wave power – First Minister Alex Salmond has also highlighted the scale of Norway’s independent sovereign oil wealth fund, which is worth the equivalent of £90,000 per head.
The White Paper – ‘Scotland’s Future – A Guide To An Independent Scotland’ – states:
Scotland has energy security. We produce six times our current demand for oil and three times our demand for gas. And we have extraordinary potential in renewable wind energy – including 25% of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal potential.
Investment in the oil and gas sector is at the record level of £13.5 billion this year and planned future investment is estimated at £100 billion.
Industry projections point to an increase in output in the first years of Scottish independence.
Production is expected to extend beyond the middle of this century, with the industry estimating remaining reserves of up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas that can be recovered.
In wholesale terms, these North Sea reserves could be worth £1.5 trilliion.
As the vast bulk of the reserves are beneath Scottish waters, that gives us one of the best financial safety nets of any country in the world.
Scotland can also look forward to a further energy bonus from our green energy resources, with expected sales of £14 billion by 2050 from offshore tidal and wind energy.
Overall, Scotland has the vast bulk of the UK’s offshore oil and gas reserves, comprising around 60% of the total in the EU – and the second-largest volume of proven gas reserves in the EU after the Netherlands.
The decisions of successive Westminster governments to spend Scottish oil revenues rather than investing a proportion of them represent a major lost opportunity.
Norway began transferring money into its oil fund in 1996. This fund is now worth £470 billion – equivalent to around £90,000 per person in Norway – and is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.
An SNP government in an independent Scotland would propose – as recommended by the Fiscal Commission – to set up a similar Scottish sovereign oil wealth fund.
However, Scotland’s economy is not dependent on oil and gas revenue, which makes up a smaller part of the economy than is the case for other oil-producing countries. For example, in the decade to fiscal year 2012, oil and gas accounted for 15% of Scotland’s overall tax income – compared to 30% in Norway.