The North Sea’s oilfields have become the latest battlefield in the fight for Scottish independence.
Today Prime Minister David Cameron and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond were both in the country to make their case to the oil and gas sector.
Over the weekend Mr Salmond opened the attack by announcing a new Energy Department would be co-headquartered in Aberdeen and Glasgow if the referendum goes his way.
Mr Salmond claimed on Saturday that independence presents an “unrivalled opportunity to boost our energy wealth”.
He said: “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.”
But today this was challenged by David Cameron who has made clear he doesn’t want Scotland to break away from the union.
Mr Cameron retaliated by suggesting the UK Government can support the industry to recover 3 to 4 billion more barrels of oil than would otherwise have been produced, squeezing out £200 billion over the next 20 years.
The Prime Minister said: “I promise we will continue to use the UK’s broad shoulders to invest in this vital industry so we can attract businesses, create jobs, develop new skills in our young people and ensure we can compete in the global race.”
A statement from the Downing Street pointed to the £4.7 billion drop in tax revenues from oil and gas in 2012-13 – 40% lower than the year before.
Downing Street said this equates to more than one third of Scotland’s health budget or two thirds of Scotland’s spending on education.
It suggested the UK is “well placed” to absorb the shocks of oil price volatility that would “dramatically affect a small country’s budget”.
Last week former BP chief executive Sir Tony Hayward suggested the oil and gas industry would continue as normal if there was a split.