Cameron and Salmond launch bidding race for UK oil regulator in Aberdeen

oil rigThe Energy Department for an independent Scotland will be co-headquartered in Aberdeen and Glasgow, First Minister Alex Salmond announced yesterday as the stakes rose rapidly in the constitutional poker game being played between the UK and Scottish governments as the date of the first popular vote on the 300-year old Treaty of Union (to be held on 18 September 2014) between Scotland and England draws nearer.

The First Minister said that the new department, which will have an estimated staff of around 300 across both centres, would capitalise on the expertise of oil and gas in Aberdeen and Glasgow’s influential position as a low carbon engineering centre.

Salmond’s Cabinet is due to meet in Aberdeenshire today (Monday24 February) to add political gravitas to the move, while – the UK Cabinet, chaired by UK Prime Minister Dave Cameron is also due to meet in Aberdeen – which is only the third time the British cabinet has met in Scotland since 1921.

A number of London-based newspapers have speculated that UK Energy Minister Ed Davey will use the British cabinet meeting in Scotland as a platform on which to announce – as widely expected and as recommended by the Wood Commission – that the UK Dept of Energy will set up a UK North Sea oil HQ in Aberdeen (which has been SNP policy since the late 1980s, and which has been fully reported in the Scottish Energy News).

As the prime minister prepared to take almost his entire cabinet for a meeting in Aberdeen today (Monday), he said it was ‘the UK government acting together’ that could best guarantee the long-term job prospects and economic benefits of production and exploration.

Cameron, who is expected to make a series of announcements about the oil and gas industries on his visit, said that he would set out “how the UK government can maximise the benefit of North Sea oil and gas to the UK economy for decades into the future, giving a vital boost to local communities and families across Scotland

The Scottish independence referendum is historically, politically and constitutionally significant – being the first ever opportunity for  ordinary voters in Scotland to cast their vote on  the Treaties of Union between Scotland and England – concluded at the start of the 18th century by self-perpetuating artistocrats and nearly 100 years before the French and American revolutions heralded the principle of representative democracy

Scotland’s Future outlines how the benefits for the energy sector in an independent Scotland could be maximised – providing the opportunity to use our energy resources to grow a dynamic Scottish energy sector and specialising in Scotland’s areas of competitive advantage.

Independence will allow Scotland to maximise the benefits of its energy wealth, supporting employment and economic growth and First Minister Alex Salmond said today:

“Independence presents an unrivalled opportunity to boost our energy wealth, support employment and grow our economy.

“A new Energy Department for Scotland co-headquartered between Aberdeen and Glasgow will capitalise on existing knowledge and expertise; building an effective, efficient and world leading energy industry.

“These locations connect our two main centres of energy expertise, bringing our academic institutions and industry together.

“Aberdeen is Europe’s oil and gas capital and its importance in the global market is undisputed, making it the natural home for a new Energy Department. It is also a vital and growing centre for the development of marine energy.

“At the same time, Glasgow is fast becoming the most influential low carbon engineering centre in UK; its proximity to electricity and gas supply industries and the renewables industry is crucial to ensuring we have the right expertise in the right place, especially in relation to the development of offshore wind in Scotland.

“With independence we would have new powers in areas such as energy regulation and the ability to target and apply financial incentives. With a new Scottish based Energy Department and control over key economic levers, the potential to boost the energy industry and bring benefits to consumers and the wider economy would be enormous.

“I wholeheartedly agree with Sir Ian Wood’s recommendation that a new regulator for the North Sea should be created. That regulator should be in Aberdeen. This would create the right conditions for a close, constructive and effective relationship to be forged between central government in Scotland, the North Sea regulator, and the industry.

“This model of government mirrors that which has been so successful in Norway, and represents an opportunity to begin to realise the full potential of the oil and gas industry in Scotland.”

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