David Cameron was flown out to an oil and gas platform 150 miles offshore yesterday as the “vital” North Sea industry took centre stage in the independence battle.
The prime minister jetted into Aberdeen in the morning, and took a helicopter out to BP’s Etap installation, before returning to chair the UK Cabinet’s first meeting in the Granite City.
The whistle-stop tour was made as UK ministers pledged to fast-track proposals to maximise North Sea oil and gas recovery – and amid warnings that the industry’s future was more secure within the Union.
Putting the offshore sector at the heart of the debate, Mr Cameron said: “Because we are a top 10 economy we can afford the tax allowances, the investment, the long-term structure that is necessary to make sure we recover as much from the North Sea as possible.”
He added: “I profoundly believe the United Kingdom will be better off if we all stay together.
“We all bring things to this United Kingdom and I’ve been very clear to say on behalf of the rest of the United Kingdom to the people in Scotland we want you to stay.
“We think that we’ll benefit by you being in the United Kingdom, by keeping this family together, but in the end the choice has to be for people in Scotland.”
Mr Cameron also revealed that he had let out a “little cry of joy” after David Bowie’s message urging Scots to “stay with us” was delivered at the Brit awards last week.
On choosing to visit Aberdeen, the Conservative leader said: “I’ve always believed in taking the Cabinet to every part of the United Kingdom.
“We’ve met across England, we’ve met in Wales, now we are meeting in Scotland. I think it’s good to get the Cabinet members out and about, talking about issues that people care about.”
Mr Cameron met BP regional president Trevor Garlick, and well engineer Ann Davies, on his first visit to a North Sea installation.
The Etap platform, or Eastern Trough Area Project, began operating in 1998 and comprises nine oil and gas reservoirs.
The UK Cabinet met yesterday at Shell’s Aberdeen headquarters.
Several high-profile Conservatives did not make the trip, with Chancellor George Osborne flying back from a G20 meeting in Australia. Foreign Secretary William Hague was making a statement to parliament about Ukraine, and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was also taking Commons questions.