By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have raised the question of whether the Westminster is again deliberately misleading the Scottish public as it did during the 1970s, as the latest Westminster forecasts for Scottish oil revenues remain significantly below those produced by the oil industry itself.

Just last week former UK Chancellor Denis Healey, now Lord Healey, admitted that during the 1970s Home Rule referendum campaign, the British Government lied to the public about the potential for North Sea oil in case awareness of the reality of Scotland's wealth encouraged pro-independence sentiment.

Mr Healey also suggested that the UK Government was currently engaged in similar tactics as Scotland debates its future in the run up to next year's independence referendum.

Mr Healey's suggestion that the UK Government is revisiting its misinformation tactics from the 1970s finds support in the figures recently released by the UK Office for Budget Responsibility for the future output of the oil and gas sector.  The OBR's figures are significantly lower than those produced by the oil industry.  The UK Government has not given an explanation for the large discrepancy.

In line with the latest industry forecasts, the Scottish Government estimates that by 2017 production levels will rise by a third on current output, increasing from 1.5 to 2.0 million barrels of oil per day – while the OBR assumes that production will remain largely unchanged from current levels in future years.

Scottish Government analysis shows that the oil and gas industry is likely to generate between £41 and £57bn in tax revenue between 2012-13 and 2017-18. Again these figures are solidly based on industry estimates.

Meanwhile, the latest OBR figures – based on estimates of oil production from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change - estimate the industry will generate the much lower figure of £33bn in the same time period.

However the higher industry and Scottish Goverment figures are conservative estimates.  Malcolm Webb, the chief executive of industry body UK Oil and Gas, told a conference in Aberdeen earlier this month that he believed the industry's figures for remaining oil potential to be significantly underestimated, leaving the discrepancy between reality and the UK Goverment's figures even greater.

Speaking to Holyrood Magazine last week, former Chancellor Denis Healey said tax receipts from oil are the biggest factor behind Westminster opposition to independence in next year's referendum, which was also the case in the 1970s - and that Westminster parties are "worried stiff" about Scots voting Yes because of the valuable income from the North Sea.

In 1974 Professor Gavin McCrone wrote a report for the UK Government which stated that Scotland would have had an "embarrassingly large tax surplus as a result of the North Sea oil boom". Successive Westminster governments kept this information under wraps until it was eventually released in 2005.

Mr Healey's admission that Westminster was deliberately lying about the true value of Scotland's oil revenues confirms a previous admission from another former cabinet minister from the 1970s.

Former Foreign Secretary Anthony Crosland, who died in 1977, admitted in his posthumously published diaries that UK Treasury officials plotted to plant false stories in order to weaken growing Scottish demands for Home Rule.

Mr Crosland said that Treasury officials had suggested planting stories which claimed that in the event of Scottish independence Orkney and Shetland could remain a part of the UK, taking a large part of Scottish territorial waters with them.  The Treasury officials intended to pass the stories to sympathetic journalists and politicians in order that they could not be attributed to the UK Government.

In scenes remarkably reminiscent of Mr Crosland's admission, in January this year the anti-independence media gave prominence to a story claiming that if Scotland voted for independence, Orkney and Shetland could choose to remain a part of the UK. 

Despite the UK Government's attempts to raise the spectre of partition, a recent opinion poll for the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper found that the people of the Northern Isles overwhelmingly regard themselves and their islands as Scottish.

Studies by legal experts have also confirmed that even in the unlikely event that Orkney and Shetland remained a part of the UK after Scottish independence, this would have no significant impact on Scotland's right to exploit resources lying under the country's continental shelf or Scotland's potential revenue from oil and gas.

Commenting on the unexplained discrepancy between UK Government forecasts and estimates originating from the oil industry, SNP MSP Maureen Watt said:

"When you take these figures into account along with Lord Healey’s comments, it is clear nothing has changed since the 1970s – Westminster continues to downplay the value of Scotland’s oil.  This is another case of history repeating itself.

"With the UK government's oil forecast at odds with the industry's, there is a real sense of déjà vu when we think back to how Westminster buried the McCrone report – a report that oil and gas would turn Scotland into one of the wealthiest and most financially secure nations on the planet – at the same time as telling us that revenues would be lower than expected and would soon run out.

"Lord Healey's admission that the Treasury hid the truth about the value and longevity of Scotland's oil and gas resources begs the question - how can we believe a word they say now?

"Personally I would trust the forecasts of those actually working in the industry rather than those of a UK Government which has a clear and consistent track record of trying to talk the industry down.

"Scotland's finances are consistently stronger than the UK's, over half of the North Sea tax revenues are still to come, and our oil and gas assets are worth £1.5 trillion or even more.

"But of course, it's a complete myth to say that we are reliant on oil. Even without this fantastic resource, Scotland's economic output is almost identical that of the rest of the UK. Oil revenues make up around double the share of Norway's total tax revenue compared to Scotland, but no one is telling the Norwegians that they are too wee and too poor to be a successful independent country.

"We have seen an historic 30-year high in investment in our oil and gas industry, with £11.4billion invested last year – expected to rise to at least £13bn this year.

"Only a Yes vote next September gives Scotland the opportunity to make the next four decades of oil and gas work for our country and for future generations.”

Meanwhile, after being asked on Good Morning Scotland on Saturday what she thought of Denis Healey's revelations that the Treasury purposely played down the value of Scotland's oil reserves in the 1970s because of the possibility of Scottish independence, shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran claimed she didn't know anything about it.  Ms Curran was then forced to concede that she "would never have colluded with an argument that didn't make Scotland strong."

Commenting, SNP MP Angus MacNeil said:

"Margaret Curran's initial remarks about Lord Healey’s revelations display a remarkable insight into the world of the No Campaign. To admit complete lack of knowledge of this issue is astonishing and begs the question of what else the No campaign wants to ignore and keep from the people of Scotland?

"Is the Labour Party also seriously saying that we should trust the current Tory-led government with Scotland's oil wealth? Considering how often Labour tell us we can't trust the Tories, this is a remarkable position for a front bench Labour MP."


# ochyes 2013-05-25 23:06
Maybe she no longer reads the Sunday Post, after all it isn't that easy to get hold of in London.
# ButeHouse 2013-05-25 23:23
Those who say that today is no different from the lying 70s are forgetting three things:

1. The Internet
2. The Press is much weaker now than then.
3. We have 6 years of an SNP Government as proof of what Independence could look like when it has full powers.

Curran is clearly lying as are her colleagues when they try the old post war Nazi trick of 'Ve had no idea of vot was goink on in ze camps.....'

If Curran and co think they are going to waltz into a post Independent Scotland Holyrood they have no chance. They would be lucky to make it onto Auchenshoogle Parish Cooncil wi their record.

VOTE YES IN 479days
# WesteringHo 2013-05-25 23:48
You may be on to something there ButeHouse - the 1970's are far different than now. It may be that they are shooting themselves in the foot with such tactics. Either way we should expect more of the same between now and the big day
# Breeks 2013-05-26 07:20
And proofs;
Proof that Norway is as wealthy as Scotland would have been.
Proof that Westminster lies and cons Scotland; -McCrone Report.
Proof the Media is rotten and will suppress & distort pro Scottish news to suppress & distort pro Scottish people.

But above all, what we have in infinite abundance are positive arguments to become an Independent country. Better Together Unionists cannot match us with one.

For the benefit of Unionists who'd call that spin? Here's a mere snapshot of positive reasons:

Fiscal policies dovetailed to Scotland's economy.
Full control of our natural resources.
Full representation of Scottish Interests in all international forums.
Freedom to pick and choose the wars we do or don't get involved with.
Power to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland.
Freedom to create an oil & renewable funds.
Genuine democracy.

And that is just the start of a very long list.
# BRL 2013-05-26 00:16
That Mrs Curran, MP, Shadow SoS for Scotland, claims, she is/was unaware of the 'oil for Scotland denied' saga is just incredible.

We surely cannot accept this line of response and she should know it.

Voters will not put up with such contempt.
# jdman 2013-05-26 04:49
My wife and I were up in Aberdeen for a couple of days looking round castles and stately homes, and driving up the coastal road from Aberdeen towards Peterhead, my wife commented on the large flotilla of support vessels at anchor waiting (I suppose) for their turn to enter Aberdeen harbour, she mentioned a pub in Gibraltar which had a picture of the mediteranian fleet taken about 1935 and the ships just dissapeared into the distance, It was huge, and she was right the array of vessels was indeed impressive, but hey what do we know eh? the government continues with the insistence the North sea is in decline, my (and my wifes) eyes tell us different.
# Will C 2013-05-26 09:40
I live in Aberdeenshire and my two sons work in the oil industry. Both have been told by their respective companies that North Sea oil has at least another 50 years of production. Aberdeen and 'Shire are booming, oil companies and service companies are building offices like klondykers set up tents in a gold camp. The ships you mention also make a mockery of Trumps views of Aberdeen Bay argument. They are not pretty, just like wind turbines, but they mean jobs and investment. There is also increasing evidence of substantial oil and gas deposits off Scotland's West coast, however our friends in Whitehall are playing that one well down. Scotland has fantastic resources which if used properly could ensure prosperity and a better way of life for generations to come. Vote YES for our children and their children's children.
# peter,aberdeenshire 2013-05-26 11:18
jdman I was once told the reasons the ships are there is because it is cheaper than paying berthing fees, not sure if this is the only reason.
As I have said before to people I spoke a few years ago with a customer the usual work stuff etc and he was a Director with oil and gas UK and he told me " there was still an awful lot left in the north sea" and speak to anyone employed in the industry and they will tell the same.
As mentioned before investment is booming and new office bases being built, hardly the sign of an industry in decline.
# Wullie B 2013-05-26 23:20
The ships sit out in the bay are waiting for the tide to allow adequite depth to get into the harbour and also berthing space , the costs of berthing will be figured into the prices paid by the production companies , and the likes of North Star wont really lose out money beinbg tied against the wall, even these companies are building newer vessels which also point to an industry on the climb, if oil was disappearing then there is no way vessels costing upwards of £5million each will be getting built
# clootie 2013-05-26 05:18
I have been working offshore since the late 70's. The investment level is very high and expectations are of rising oil prices.

The NO campaign is about the needs of Westminster not Scotland.
# Ready to Start 2013-05-26 07:57
Mags Curran's feigned ignorance of the under estimation of oil revenues in 1970s may have some truth as at that time the left in the Labour in Scotland were more interested in democracy and national rights all over the world except when it came to Scotland.

Mind you Labour MPs and MSPs also claimed ignorance of Ian Taylor's "dirty money" donation when asked and BBC still to ask Alistair Darling about it despite having several opportunities.
# teechur 2013-05-26 08:24
I can't help thinking that the fact that the Office for Budget Responsibility being a Tory quango has a lot to do with the massive under-estimation of Scotland's potential. But surely such an 'independent' body wouldn't lie to us... ;-)
# Rannoch 2013-05-26 08:50
OBR assumes that production will remain largely unchanged from current levels in future years whereas the.....

Oil & Gas 25 February 2013 states that North Sea oil production will rise from the present 1.5 to 2.0 million barrels of oil per day to 2.0 million barrels of oil per day in 2017
# Nautilus 2013-05-26 11:32
Would you honestly believe any of the OBR forecasts after their recent predictions on the economy? They’re obviously a Government propaganda machine who have consistently talked up the performance of this incompetent Westminster bunch only for us to be let down by the next set of figures that emerge.
Let’s not let this handbag-swinging self-interested shower waste another 30 years of our natural resources in propping up their massive trade deficit which I can’t see being resolved for another 10 years.
Nimrod, Trident, NHS patient registration computer programme, planeless aircraft carriers, unnecessary wars – the list goes on – that’s the kind of goodies our oil will subsidise. Vote YES.
# Hugo 2013-05-26 12:25
Is Margaret Curran saying that she, and Parliament, were misled about oil revenues in the 70's?

I thought the ultimate political offense was to mislead Parliament!

Or is it permissible if it is also to mislead the Scots?
# Rafiki 2013-05-26 13:25
One possible factor in the variance; does the OBR count the 6 oil wells in the area of stolen sea as not Scottish?

I only ask the question.(a la Lamont)
# schawaldowris 2013-05-26 13:27
Make no mistake the Whitehall mandarins, in order to maintain the status quo, will lie,fabricate,d eceive,distort and perjure. To their eternal shame Scottish Labour,Tory and Liberal MPs will queue up to deliver the deceit.

Deja vue 1974.
# Independista 2013-05-26 17:05
If in any doubt, take a look at 'Diomhair' (Secret) the documentary by BBC Alba, where "For more than half a century Conservative and Labour Governments set aside their antipathy to share a common agenda- stopping Home Rulers and Scottish Nationalists from breaking up Britain." Its still up there on Youtube

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