The UK Government has been warned not to “shoot from the hip” on future tax changes for the oil and gas industry after First Minister Alex Salmond called for new legislation to stop the Treasury imposing shock levy increases.
Industry analysts said yesterday that the sector could begin to trust the government again if it was consulted on planned tax rises.
Mr Salmond has said Chancellor George Osborne should introduce a statutory consultation period between oil and gas representatives and the Treasury before any future changes to the regime.
David Barclay, divisional director at investment management and financial planning specialists Brewin Dolphin in Aberdeen, said the idea would be a positive step for the sector.
He added: “Regardless of political colour, our elected representatives have a duty to ensure a stable fiscal environment to help facilitate inward investment for the UK continental shelf.”
Bob Ruddiman, the head of energy at law firm McGrigors, said: “We need certainty because the planning required needs to be long term and has to be measured against a clear and established fiscal regime.
“If we were to establish a procedure for a statutory consultation, which ensures that proposed changes are thought through and in context, then it would be good news for the industry and we can make the most of the opportunities in front of us today and maximise potential in the future.”
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said the offshore industry was vital to both the Scottish and UK economies, so the government “should not shoot from the hip when it comes to tax changes”.
Mr Roy-Chowdhury added: “The government has spoken many times about the need to simplify the tax system and industry consultation is one way to make that happen.”
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish energy minister, said the idea of a period of statutory consultation on changes to the offshore taxation regime was already finding favour in the industry.
According to Energy Minister Charles Hendry, plans are being put in place which would go beyond what Mr Salmond has called for.
Speaking at the Offshore Europe exhibition, Mr Hendry said that a new group being set up would facilitate talks between the UK Government and industry on tax issues.