By Martin Kelly
A potential oil boom off the west coast of Scotland was blocked by the Ministry of Defence because of the close proximity to the Faslane Nuclear base, a former Labour MP has said.
According to the Sunday Post, Whitehall officials pulled the plug on further exploration work near the Firth of Clyde after BP discovered oil south of Arran in the 1980s.

Exploratory work had discovered oil and further work was planned.  But this was blocked by defence officials based in London who were concerned that it would interfere with nuclear submarine excercises carried out in the area.

Speaking to the Sunday Post, former Labour MP David Lambie - the local MP between 1970 and 1992 - revealed that he had been told by a Conservative MP that the close proximity of the Faslane Naval base was the reason work had been stopped.

"One of the Tory MPs I was friendly with at the time told me privately that there was oil there but any further exploration was being blocked by the MoD.

"Because it was a part of the sea they used for excercises and training, the Navy told them [BP] to walk away from the application.

"I was furious – if the people in my constituency had the choice between naval excercises and oil jobs I know which one they would choose.

He added: "I am absolutely convinced there is oil down there."

The newspaper revealed that neither BP nor the MoD has any records from the survey work carried out in the Firth of Clyde.  The newspaper said that a request to the MoD for all information it held on oil exploratory work "drew a blank", a MoD spokesman saying it was likely that any information had been destroyed.

One of the men who worked on the project told the newspaper: "We were told there was oil and the exploration work lasted some time, but I don’t know what happened beyond that."

Local SNP councillor Ian Douglas said he himself spoke to the exploration crew in the mid-eighties, and said:

"We were told they were mapping the sea-bed and that the results were hush-hush, but that Scotland would be a wealthy place sooner rather than later after the oil started to flow."

Professor Alex Kemp of Aberdeen University said he would be "surprised" if there was oil there, but added; "I wouldn’t be surprised if the MoD objected as that has been quite common in the history of the North Sea."

SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Chic Brodie said:

"Given the revelation by former chancellor Denis Healey that the UK government underplayed the value of oil in the 1970s, we have to be deeply sceptical that the UK government is telling us everything they know when it comes to oil in the Firth of Clyde. 

"We know for a fact that the MoD was consulted on the exploration and now we have the local MP at the time saying they had any further exploration halted.

"The people of Scotland deserve answers from the UK government on what is exactly down there. It is odd to say in the least that no records exist anymore."

Speaking to Holyrood magazine in May, former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey admitted that Labour deliberately hid the true extent of Scotland’s oil wealth in the late 70s in order to thwart support for the SNP.

"I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism ..."

The former Labour Minister also said that the current UK government is "worried stiff" that Scots might vote Yes in the 2014 referendum which will mean Westminster losing billions in tax receipts from Scottish oil.


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# cynicalHighlander 2013-10-06 13:34
# gopher3 2013-10-06 14:25
@cynicalhighlan der

How many such incidents have occurred at the Faslane base. We have the right to know.
# call me dave 2013-10-06 14:30
This has been going the rounds for a wee while now. A FOI request to the council was made in March 2013.
Anybody know what transpired?

Glasgow Herald 1983?

FOI Request March 2013.
July 2013:

On the newspaper link look down the page re: Devolution Labour: Funny old world.
# fiona4independance 2013-10-06 14:57
Why have BBC not reported this, this is a major story if its true, and there's no reason to believe it isn't, considering previous form withholding secrets at Westminster.
What if the scottish government tried to halt oil exploration of the essex coast. They would be shot down in a minute.

This is classic case of the bullying ruling masters at Westminster. Vote yes next year.
# Will C 2013-10-06 15:08
It seems to me that this story merits rigorous investigation. There have also been rumours for years that there are substantial oil reserves off Oban. If there are big oil fields off Scotland's West Coast that would be THE GAME CHANGER. The SNP must investigate further.
# clootie 2013-10-06 15:56
Very strong rumours in the oil industry at the time that plans were ready to go - a change of ownership of Ayr harbour were claimed to be taking place for a new supply boat base.
# cardrossian 2013-10-07 06:20
I have often wondered too. I had a drinking session in a pub in Ballantrae with a BP Prospector when they were doing tests along the foreshore with a wagon which sent a pressure wave through the ground and he quite definitely told me that there were commercial quantities of oil in the Firth.

Just another eason for getting rid of the nukes
# proudscot 2013-10-06 16:07
Oh no, surely not more of this (OBR alleged) diminishing resource creating huge problems for an independent Scotland - not to mention the added asset of an oil fund for our country's future!!!

If proved to be true, this is just more evidence that we incompetent Jocks need Westminster to spend it for us on important things like HS2, upgrading Boris's London Tube, MPs' expenses and the House of Lords, more WMDs even!
# heraldnomore 2013-10-06 16:46
And the oil is thus still there, and the future of n independent nuclear free Scotland looks even brighter. Now if the state broadcaster will let thee people know of the duplicity of the past, more may see the light.
# Angus 2013-10-06 17:27
One of the 200 nuclear warheads is enough to wipe Glasgow out. The people of Scotland have constantly been lied to.
How does 'Scottish' labour manage to live with itself?
# jinglyjangly 2013-10-06 17:38
When I worked in the Oil Industry one of my colleagues who had previously worked on the survey ships off Arran claimed that the results were very promising. I seem to remember some appraisal drilling was carried out but maybe memory is playing tricks however we always assumed no futher development was due to the Nukes both American and British. However since the Antares disaster the British Nukes have to transit on the surface so there should not be any reason why they cant build the subsea infrastructure. Certainly there were a lot of upgrades to the roads and troon harbour at that time which was always presumed to support oil bases. Time will tell but as far as I am aware most of the oil is north of the highland fault line and of course south of arran is south of the highland fault line.
# andygm 2013-10-06 17:40
If true, we owe the MOD a debt of gratitude. Now the Scottish people can benefit. One note of caution, with modern drilling technology this field could be exploited from onshore. So why hasn't it happened?
# mmarsattacks 2013-10-06 18:06
If this is true then it's all still down there. A nice wee revenue stream for us when the nuclear subs have been moved on. It's not like Westminster to miss a trick like this though - goes to show they must value their nuclear toys more than asset stripping their colonies.
# ayemachrihanish 2013-10-06 18:10
While working for Chevron in the mid 1990's it was common knowledge that all Oil Discoveries west of Shetland such  this SINGLE EXAMPLE 
and as far south as Arran, yes as far South as the ACTUAL DISCOVERIES south of Arran  were part of a bogus sea area off limits as they used for subs and exercises and training by the Navy.  

A Question for everyone  (Waken UP!!!) look at a map of all the current North Sea oil discoveries Get it - All - east of Shetland - like there no oil deposits West of Shetland! The example above £Value of a single Field  - Claire - known recoverable oil 5,000 minimum x Million Barrels x say $100 (at today rate) - that's correct Value - $500,000,000,00 0 Value - $500 Billion in real stuff - not derivatives - 
Scotland couldn't bail out RBS ??? Aye right! That one field IS bailing out The BANK of ENGLAND! Never, ever, underestimate the high deviousness and low cunning of the British state. 
# WRH2 2013-10-06 18:32
The Irish Republic has discovered oil and is due to start extraction. Bearing in mind that this is to the south of us and there is oil off the north west coast of Scotland there must be a possibility that there is oil off our entire west coast. I certainly heard these rumours in the 1980's as well as rumours of on shore oil.
# Breeks 2013-10-06 19:15
Not sure about this. That's a mighty big source of revenue to put on hold just because there are nuclear subs 'in the vicinity'.

Something tells me there is more to come on this story. There are some big pieces missing from the jigsaw.
# bringiton 2013-10-06 20:16
I imagine that the London treasury told the MOD that they were doing quite nicely out of North Sea revenues,so no need to disrupt naval operations off our West coast.
Doubt there is more to it than that.
# rabkae 2013-10-06 19:56
Nothing about all those capped wells west of the Hebrides then. Funny thing that.

Another deafening silence from the MSM - wait a minute - oh look, a squirrel!
# williemacewan 2013-10-06 20:00
I had a converstaion with two guys who were lodging with me in the Holy Loch area in the late 1980s who were examining the Holy Loch as a potential safe harbour for oil exploration vessels and gear
# call me dave 2013-10-06 20:29
North Sea
North Atlantic East and West Shetlands
Northern Irish Sea and West Coast Ireland.
There must be some in between.
Also heard (but can't find) reference to mainland oil. Why not?

I'll wake up in the morning to find in the papers it's all gone (again)
# Fungus 2013-10-06 20:38
I was a cop in Irvine at that time and well remember seeing drilling rigs offshore. The rumour was that there was just as much oil under the Firth as there was under the North Sea. I often wondered why it had died a death.
# ratzo 2013-10-06 21:15
Its not pure speculation. When I was working (at a very low level) in the oil industry in the 1980s I knew a geophysicist (now rather eminent, no longer in Scotland) who did his PhD on the area in the 1960s, and concluded then that it was worth further exploration and wasn't sure why no-one had followed it up.
# Azg 2013-10-06 22:16
Quoting ratzo:
... I knew a geophysicist (now rather eminent, no longer in Scotland) who did his PhD on the area in the 1960s...

Aha! That sounds useful. I mean, in that if you remember where he did his Ph.D., then the university library will have a copy of of it, and there's a good chance one could arrange to borrow it on inter-library loan, or even just to see it in situ.

It would be very interesting.
# dpict 2013-10-07 00:43
I remember the excitement when the oil industry started building Portavadie (Lochfyne). I wondered why after sinking millions of pounds into it they then walked away. All sorts of excuses came out, things like the non-existent notorious tides. (I sailed in that very area for many years). The type of rig was apparently flawed (like that could not have been sorted) but what I remember the most was the disappointment and bewilderment at the lost jobs and the vast sums wasted. They could not even agree on how much but official estimates state between seven and fourteen million pounds. Whatever, it was an enormous amount back in 1975/76. I think the nuke subs are only part of the story, keeping the oil price high and us in the union were their main priority's.
# gus1940 2013-10-07 07:26
A couple of days ago there was a story in The Record (I think) that moves were afoot to compel Ally McCoist to demolish a breakwater that he had constructed at his Upper Clyde Retreat (exact location not stated).

The main objection apparently was from The MOD as 'it would interfere with the operation of secret underwater detection devices defending us from intrusion by Russian subs'.

This ties in nicely with the above item.

I lived and worked in Ayr back in the 80's and can well remember all the rumours at the time about the coming Clyde Oil Bonanza.
# Old Smokey 2013-10-07 07:44
Managed to find a response by the MOD to a FOI
Not the one though dated March 2013 to the MOD, but this is responding to an FOI of April 2013 to the Dept of Energy
Its the usual bland response only confirming that there was a production licence 'PL262' in an area south of Arran . Opening the zip files you get a copy of the letter and a 'helpful' map (Also note licence areas onshore which are on a diagonal path from the North Sea to the Firth of Clyde)
# Old Smokey 2013-10-07 08:08
Hansard 1980 , questions by, George Foulkes who asks "Is the Minister aware of the growing feeling that the oil companies are deliberately keeping quiet about the huge potential off the West Coast, as they did earlier about the huge reserves in the North Sea, to minimise the pressure to increase oil taxes? What power does the Minister have to undertake an independent study to ascertain the potential of reserves? Will he undertake such a study?"
Hamish Gray repond's "Such a study is unnecessary. Considerable information is already available to the Department. After consultation with various companies that have taken seismic soundings there, the Government realise that there is potential. The same enthusiasm for the West Coast has not been expressed so far because of the finds in the east. However there was enthusiasm for blocks offered off the West Coast in the seventh round"
# Old Smokey 2013-10-07 08:34
Also found something interesting from Hansard in Nov 1991 in a question from Brian Wilson : "what representations his Dept has made on the development of oil and gas resources in the Firth of Clyde & which areas, in and around the Firth of Clyde, have been ruled out of bounds to oil and gas exploration on account of military requirements; and if he will make a statement"
I think you will find the answer interesting at the following link
# tartanthing 2013-10-08 02:13
Back in the mid to late 70's when I was a young boy I'm sure I remember seeing a testing rig in the firth from my grandparents house in Whiting Bay; I'm also sure I recall stories about the oil being there as well. It was a long time ago of course.

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