DAVID Cameron has hit back at Alex Salmond’s claims the UK Government is not running the oil and gas industry properly.
Welcoming BP’s announcement yesterday, Scotland’s first minister said the Clair field announcement confirmed the offshore industry has a key role to play in generating jobs, skills and revenue for decades to come.
But he also used the opportunity to launch a fresh attack on the Westminster tax regime which he claims has damaged confidence.
He said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was using the industry as a “cash cow” and said it would be better served if the Scottish Government took over.
However, the suggestion was robustly rejected by the prime minister yesterday.
Mr Cameron said: “I always have good conversations with Alex Salmond, and I hope he can focus our talks on what is good for Scotland rather than what is an independence agenda, which I don’t think most people in Scotland want to sign up to.
“The point I make is that the whole of the UK has invested in the North Sea and therefore the whole UK should benefit. I do not agree with Alex Salmond’s separation agenda – we are stronger together than apart.”
The first minister said the “cack-handed” decision to levy a windfall tax on oil companies by raising the supplementary charge on production from 20% to 32% without consultation had caused “great damage” in the sector.
Chancellor George Osborne stunned offshore companies in March by launching a £10billion raid on the sector to fund a 1p cut in fuel duty.
Mr Salmond said yesterday: “This massive new investment by BP and its partners is extremely welcome and confirms that the offshore industry has a key role to play in generating jobs, skills and revenue for decades to come.
“With up to 40% of oil and gas reserves still to be extracted, and well over half of the revenues still to be generated, the UK Government needs to give more certainty to the industry and restore confidence that has been badly dented by the Treasury’s conduct this year.
“As BP’s announcement demonstrates, there is plenty of life left in the industry. Indeed, if it had not been for the Budget blow, it would be at the centre of an unprecedented boom in jobs and investment, not just in the west coast frontier area but in the marginal and brownfield places hardest hit by the tax hike.”
He added: “Scotland’s energy sector, and the jobs and wealth it supports, deserve better.
“We have the unacceptable situation of Scotland pumping billions of pounds of oil revenues into the Westminster Exchequer at record levels – yet the Treasury holding back on the funding needed to make Longannet and Scotland a world leader in carbon capture technology.
“The Treasury using the North Sea as a cash cow while blocking investment in hydrocarbons demonstrates the case for Scotland taking responsibility for our own energy resources.”