Independence would give Scotland a second chance to harness its oil wealth for the “benefit of the nation”, a Scottish Government report has claimed.
While Norway has invested cash from oil revenues in a special fund now worth more than £500 billion, the paper claimed Westminster administrations had instead used the revenue from the North Sea to help fund general government spending and lower taxes.
But it said a Yes vote in next month’s referendum would allow for a new Scottish Energy Fund to be created to “provide investment for future generations from a natural resource that can only be extracted once”.
This fund could also provide income to help deal with fluctuating revenues from North Sea oil and gas, it added.
Independence would also allow new fiscal measures to be brought in, in a bid to boost production, but it stressed there would be no changes to tax or regulatory regimes without “meaningful consultation” with the sector.
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “Norway is a great example of how, by fostering a stable and predictable fiscal and regulatory regime, a resource-rich nation can not only develop a very strong oil and gas sector, but through the development of an oil fund use its energy wealth to benefit the whole country.
“Unlike Norway, the UK Government has been missing the point – formulating policy based on short-term gain instead of focusing on the long-term impact upon value generation, and the need to sustain investment in all areas of the oil and gas industry.
“There is no doubt that as part of the UK we have so far lost out on the very real benefits that an independent country can secure.
“For example, Norway has established an oil fund that is worth over £500 billion – equivalent to £100,000 for every Norwegian citizen.
“Over the same period, the UK Government has accumulated £1.3 trillion of public-sector net debt.”
The North Sea – Two Futures report concluded: “Scotland now has a second opportunity to steward its oil and gas assets for the benefit of the nation, as well as supporting the growth of an industry that in many areas is the best in the world. “
The equivalent of 42 billion barrels of oil have been extracted from the UK Continental Shelf, which has generated over £310 billion in tax revenue at today’s prices.
In Norway while slightly less oil – the equivalent of under 40 billion barrels – has been extracted, the oil and gas sector as contributed more than £500 billion in revenue.
The report said research had concluded that “had it used its oil wealth to establish an oil fund in 1980, Scotland could have eliminated its share of UK public sector net debt by 1982/83” and that by 2011/12 could have accumulated financial assets of between £82 billion and £116 billion.
Mr Ewing said: “Poor stewardship of resources, frequent changes to the tax regime, a lack of focus on value creation and mismanagement of revenues are all mistakes that we cannot let happen again, and which an independent Scotland will address.
“In value terms half the wealth from Scotland’s oil remains and it is imperative that Scotland does not allow the same mistakes to continue.
“By grabbing the independence opportunity next month we can emulate Norway’s example, instead of putting up with yet more mismanagement and poor stewardship of this vital resource.”
A Better Together spokesman said: “This report has been rushed out after the devastating intervention of Sir Ian Wood yesterday, which completely blew apart the credibility of the nationalists’ estimates on oil.
“Oil has been great for Scotland, but the blind faith and false figures of the SNP is putting at risk the public services we cherish.
“We do not have to risk our schools and hospitals on the nationalists’ guesswork.
“We can have the best of both worlds for Scotland – a strong Scottish Parliament with more powers guaranteed, backed up by the strength, security and stability of the UK by saying No Thanks to separation on 18 September.”