Few could have failed to notice the ‘row’ over oil revenues in an independent Scotland. The debate has pitched Unionists, the CPPR and the OBR against the Scottish government, academics and the oil and gas industry.
Oil is running out according to Unionists who then apparently claim that there is so much that ‘too wee’ Scotland couldn’t handle it. Yep, just like Qatar and Norway – these wee countries making such a mess of the resource that their oil funds are creaking at the seams.
However there’s another unremarked aspect of the debate - just whose oil is it?
Now, yes I know, the oil is effectively the UKs - and as long as Scotland remains in the UK then that won’t change. But what I mean is, in which part of the UK does the oil resource reside?
Most reasonable observers will accept that around 90% of the oil resides in what are identifiable Scottish international waters. Vince Cable let slip the truth this week when he acknowledged that it is indeed ‘Scotland’s Oil’.
The UK government many years ago designated the North Sea area within which the oil resided as ‘Extra Regio’
This was done to ensure that activities on the continental shelf were not classified as occurring in any particular nation or region of the UK. It was an effective ruse to hide Scotland’s wealth.
We see a similar ruse even today when the media are reporting on positive aspects of the oil and gas sector. Listen carefully to BBC reporters who will more often than not describe the oil as a UK resource, and new discoveries as happening in UK waters.
It’s UK this and UK that as the word 'Scotland' is said through gritted teeth, if at all. It's all technically correct of course, but given that BBC Scotland is supposed to be our broadcaster then one would have thought that the current debate required that new discoveries and record investment in Scottish waters would be described as such.
However there is a striking difference when referring to the banking crisis, where both Bank of Scotland and the RBS are frequently described as ‘Scottish Banks’.
For decades of course these ‘Scottish Banks’ generated billions for the UK exchequer, but they were never described as Scottish. In fact you would have been hard pressed to hear anything at all about the money that poured into the UK Treasury from these banks during one of Gordon Brown’s ‘boom’ periods.
But when boom turned to bust then a kilt and a Jimmy Wig was hastily stuck onto these Great British institutions faster than you could say ‘subsidy junkie’.
Strangely, the English banks such as Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley, that also cost the taxpayer a pretty penny, are never referred to as such, they are simply … banks.
It was the same with the English riots that became ‘British’ overnight, and the practice is of course as old as the hills. The recent gas shortages in England were described as a "UK shortage", despite the fact that Scotland produces far more gas than we use - the rest being piped south of the border. In fact England's shortage is the reason we pay higher gas prices, because even with Scotland's surplus, England still has to import expensive gas from Russia.
There's more of this UK/Scottish flip flopping in sport. Most of us will recall how success is embraced by the Union flag (see Andy Murray) whilst failure wipes away the tears with a saltire.
So, listen out the next time BBC Scotland reports on the new oil boom and investment in the sector – it’s a sure fire bet they will describe the territory as UK.
The banks? Well a Union flag awaits the day when they start generating profits for the Treasury. Before then a Scot will either flop at Wimbledon or a Brit will triumph.