Scotland’s Oil

Oil Boats with Offshore wind turbines in the background

The Right Hon Alex Salmond MP, leader of the ALBA party dedicated to regain Scotland’s self-governance, answers Nicola Sturgeon’s off-the-cuff dismissal of the Cambo oil field.


This week Nicola Sturgeon turned off the switch in a response to a parliamentary taunt from a Labour MSP. She came out against the development of the massive new Cambo oil field. The consequences could be far-reaching, and not just for the SNP but for the whole independence movement.

The immediate reaction is consternation in SNP ranks. Even ultra loyalists in the North East of Scotland are baulking at how to defend on the doorstep a party which effectively wants to shut down the area’s key industry. It would be akin to Margaret Thatcher, having closed the pits, then campaigning for votes in the old mining areas of Cowdenbeath and Kelty.

The second consequence is even more serious and is for the case for independence itself. Oil and gas have represented, not just lucrative hydrocarbons, but have been a symbol of the vast resource base of Scotland, which help make us such a solid economic prospect as an independent state. It has never been the basis of the independence plan – that relies on the talents of the people – but it has always been part of the case. For the leader of the independence campaign to casually cast aside that card represents a stunning backwards step.

As ever in oil and gas matters we should look across the North Sea to Norway to see how serious governments address issues. The new Labour Party led government of Jonas Gahr Støre has pledged to cut greenhouse emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 but to “develop not dismantle” the oil and gas industry. As the Prime Minister dryly noted, more Russian and Middle East gas imports to replace the Norwegian product would hardly assist western Europe in achieving is greenhouse targets! And Norway is a country which no longer needs its oil money, sitting on a national “pension fund” of well over one trillion dollars from previous revenues. It is also a country whose ethical and environmental record as a world citizen easily surpasses that of the UK.

Of course the Scottish Government claim that they will establish a fund to ensure a “just” transition away from oil and gas. This is interesting. Cambo is expected to generate $40 billion over the next quarter-century. And that is just from one field. How exactly is a devolved government going to deploy that sort of funding?

Over the last 40 years, the U.K. Treasury has accumulated some £300 billion in today’s money from the North Sea. But the Scottish Government claim to be able to fund the “just” transition themselves. There is an old saying in the national movement that most countries got filthy rich from discovering oil and gas but Scotland might just get filthy!

The irony of this is there is still another way – a way to both to make Scotland’s contribution to facing the existential crisis of global warming and to protect and preserve livelihoods of working people.

More than ten years ago the Scottish Government took a series of tough decisions to maximise renewable energy. They were not universally popular. People protested. Tory politicians lined up to deride the wind turbines – they could not “knock the skin off a rice pudding” guffawed Boris Johnson.

Now wind energy it is already our biggest and cheapest way of generating electricity and, from offshore wind alone, Scotland could soon produce five times or more our own electricity requirements. It will also produce billions of annual revenues and thus we should move right now to demand a Scottish public stake in every major wind energy field, just as the Norwegians did with their oil a generation ago.

But Scotland has a further means of responding to the climate emergency. We have Europe’s best sites for carbon capture in the “saline aquifers” of our part of the North Sea. That is the process of taking the carbon dioxide produced from oil and other carbon industries and sending it back from whence it came into the geological formations of the North Sea through the established pipeline network.

The Tory Westminster Government have just stabbed Acorn -the latest ambitious Scottish proposal for carbon capture- in the back just as its Labour predecessors did with previous projects. But with effective campaigning it can be revived quickly. Without Scottish carbon capture neither the UK or Scotland will meet the climate targets solemnly pledged in Glasgow just a few days ago. With it we make a serious contribution not just to our own carbon reductions but to the whole of Europe’s. That is the extent of the potential.

And we should make the oil majors pay. Cambo should be licensed but with a condition for it to be a zero carbon development. The only way that can be achieved is to help finance carbon capture.

Shell Oil is a company who just a few years back said there were no remaining big oil fields in the waters around Scotland. Now they want to buy into Cambo, one of the very biggest and one which will produce for Shell many billions of profits. So make them and the other developers help pay for pioneering carbon capture.

That is the sort of development vision which engages Scotland’s resources for the benefit of our people AND for the protection of the planet. With it we can lead the world in responsible production of our energy resources as a proud and independent country.

Without it then it is not just farewell to tens of thousands of North East of Scotland votes for the SNP. Much more seriously it’s Mossmoran no more, Grangemouth no more, St Fergus no more – and independence no more.

Alex Salmond
Leader ALBA Party
Former First Minister

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8 Responses to Scotland’s Oil

  1. duncanio says:

    As ever Alex Salmond sees the opportunity – jobs, carbon capture and Independence promotion.

    As ever Nicola Sturgeon just misses the point:

    1. Brexit – postpone to restore Scottish statehood until ‘fog’ has lifted
    2. Covid – cease and desist from all campaigning (including online) until pandemic is over
    3. COP26 – avoid protesting Scotland’s Cause but some personal self(ie) promotion is just fine

    Now the chance to kill 3 birds with one stone merely ignored.

    By the time this FM and Scottish Government leave office this nation, one way or another, will be well and truly fracked.

  2. Stan Wilson says:

    Well written piece by Alex and an excellent response by Duncanio.

  3. kurikat says:

    Just what you would expect from a FM who knows what would be best for Scotland. You just have to look at all the things he introduced to help the People living in Scotland. People before party politics with Alex, country before Party with Alex. As FM he donated a salary to charity, he also donated proceeds from his book to charity, todays FM is busy giving herself and her besties in the aorta huge wage rises, they are now a party of career opportunity. Nothing else. She has split the country, with their HATE CB. 7 GRA, split the Indy with their both votes SNP. The best thing to happen now would be for the SNP party to go the way of the Labour Party, to hell but never to come back..
    Scotland has got to change, this time NOT just from Labour to SNP. But from SNP to ALBA or ISP. We need to start over. Then take back what she has given away..we must remove the English parties from our Scottish Parliament, No more list votes keeping UNIONISTS in a party the do not believe in..
    Combo has to remain, as the jobs are needed as well as the resource itself, common sense tells you that. Of course there has to be a transition from oil & gas. But it has to be worked in, not just stopped.

  4. duncanstrachan says:

    She is either a deliberate and very effective wrecking ball or a pretty poor politician with rotten political instincts.

  5. lorncal says:

    Great piece from Alec Salmond, and he makes an interesting link between Thatcher and Sturgeon, which, I think, is valid on several levels. I recall, at the time of the miners’ strike, talking to a miner who said that the British pits would close down but that Eastern Europe’s and China’s would continue to contribute to the carbon produced. Coal is not directly related to oil and gas, but, like carbon capture in Scotland, clean coal (green) was one route forward that was being investigated. Of course, that innovative technology was in its infancy, as was carbon capture, and both were halted. The tragedy lies in the fact that they were halted and that new technology could have been well-advanced by this stage. New technology and ideas always tend to generate others, but you have to be open-minded to see their future potential. Of course, investment is crucial, but sensible governments invest in order to compete and to keep their work forces employed.

    We are not going to alleviating the climate change problem everywhere by recycling alone or by paying a few pennies for a carrier bag: innovative and ground-breaking new science and technology will play the biggest role, and it will require to be developed quickly, with maximum co-operation between nations. That will involve investment in our technology colleges and universities. Investment, in turn, will require taxes to be gathered and paid and used within our society and not to be avoided, evaded and taken off-shore to tax havens where it gathers more money for people who simply do not need it or who want to speculate and skew markets through their unremitting greed.

    In a way, we are lucky that the frightening signs of severe weather patterns and so on are happening faster than predicted. How much worse would it be if the global corporate capitalists who have caused most of it had all been able to build themselves the means to take them off the Earth to a suitable planet where they could start their psychopathy all over again. Much better that they, too, fear what is coming and start to invest in projects that will help us all: new technology and science to do that would go a long way to atonement; and not sinking their ill-gotten gains in trans ideology to create generations of mutilated and hormone-sick people, and other vanity nonsense that will not save their sorry behinds when the oceans rise and the tempests blow.

  6. tombkane says:

    Thanks to Gareth for giving Alex Salmond this platform.

    In one straight piece we can see clearly why there are so many people working to keep Mr Salmond out of Holyrood: he is knowledgeable, concerned and creative. And furthermore, his early government started the extraordinary carbon capture work.

    Had AS been FM when COP26 came to Glasgow, we really would have made an impact.

    Now, more than ever I want to see Mr Salmond given a chance to shine again as FM in Holyrood and an independent Scotland.

    And Godspeed the North East.

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    The SNP turned itself into John Knox times a thousand.

  8. Quoting: ‘The Right Hon Alex Salmond MP, leader of the ALBA party dedicated to regain Scotland’s self-governance, answers Nicola Sturgeon’s off-the-cuff dismissal of the Cambo oil field’ (sic)… NO two first Ministers are alike!

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