Alistair Darling’s latest claims on the oil industry fly in the face of all evidence, the SNP’s Fergus Ewing said yesterday – and come on the same day as an expert report confirmed that oil and gas are a bonus not the basis of Scotland’s economy.
Despite successive Westminster governments imposing a series of tax hikes on the North Sea, Mr Darling today claimed that the success of the North Sea oil industry was due to “a very stable tax and regulatory regime” as part of the UK.
Alistair Darling’s comments come despite the UK Government facing widespread criticism by industry figures for its management of the North Sea fiscal regime – with experts such as Mike Tholen of Oil & Gas UK and Professor Alexander Kemp recently criticising the numerous changes in tax arrangements imposed on the sector.
Mr Darling’s claims on oil are further undermined by an expert report from Investec which show that without oil and gas the per capita GDP levels between Scotland and the rest of the UK are “roughly equal” – and that “there is a misconception that Scotland is ‘poorer’ than the UK as a whole…total GDP per head in Scotland is about 10% higher.”
Commenting, the SNP’s Fergus Ewing said:
“Yesterday’s comments from Alistair Darling are quite incredible – and completely fly in the face of all the evidence from the industry.
“Mr Darling may want to forget the repeated tax hikes and instability imposed on the North Sea industry by successive Westminster governments – but the industry and ordinary people in Scotland won’t.
“Senior figures in the oil industry have been absolutely clear that the successive tax hikes imposed by the UK Government have been detrimental to the oil and gas industry.
“If the No campaign think that Westminster has a positive record on North Sea taxation stability, then people in the industry will be rightly worried when they consider what could follow in the event of a No vote.
“While the Westminster establishment is intent on using the North Sea as a cash cow, after a Yes vote the Scottish Government will work with the industry to ensure stability and make the most of our natural resources – which is one of the reasons independence is so vital.
“And on the day that an expert report has confirmed that oil is a bonus rather than the basis of Scotland’s economy, we can use a Yes vote to make our oil wealth work for people in Scotland – rather than flowing to the Treasury in London.”
Alistair Darling’s comments were made at the Oil and Gas UK conference.
At a meeting of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, Professor Alexander Kemp said:
“Multiple changes in taxation arrangements make things very difficult for investors who are trying to make long run investment decisions”
“[Westminster’s] record really, as far as taxation policy is concerned, and in terms of maximising economic recovery which is the widely accepted objective, it has left quite a bit to be desired.”
“It could hardly have come at a more unfortunate time, because the increased costs including the tax will be passed on by drilling companies… And that will affect in particular exploration because mobile rigs are used for exploration, and to some extent it will affect development drilling as well because there will be some mobile rigs used for development drilling”.
Mike Tholen said:
“At a time of very high drilling costs anything which adds to costs clearly is unattractive”
“There have been too many changes and indeed most recently the tax increases have been very hard to bear by an industry which is trying to do some very difficult things.”
Pictured is Alistair Darling MP and leader of the Better Together campaign