Oil and gas experts have warned that North Sea investment and jobs are at stake amid the prospect of a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Edinburgh-based consultancy Wood Mackenzie analysed the state of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) two-and-a-half years on from the 2014 vote.
Their report puts the value of Scottish oil and gas fields at £44 billion but highlights challenges facing the industry including the oil price drop and decommissioning obligations.
It points out that commercial reserves have decreased by about 30% since 2014.
“It is clear that oil and gas tax revenue will play a smaller part in the economic case for independence should a second referendum be held,” the report states.
“While 11 billion boe (barrels of oil equivalent) of reserves and resources lie in Scottish waters, this sits alongside the obligation to decommission the majority of fields, equating to 80% of the total UK decommissioning bill.
“Companies will be looking for reassurances that, should Scotland vote for independence, they will continue to have access to the decommissioning tax relief they currently receive. But the outlook is not encouraging
“With new investment and jobs at stake, and the complicating factors of boundaries and decommissioning tax relief, much is at stake.”
Opposition parties warned the prospect of a second vote on independence could deter investors in the North Sea.
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett MSP said: “It is clear from this report that the currently fragile recovery we are seeing in the North Sea could be put at risk by Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless and irresponsible drive for independence.
“Far from supporting the industry, the SNP’s obsession with independence could cost jobs, reduce investment and cause huge confusion for the decommissioning market.”
Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP said: “Oil is an integral part of the north-east and the Scottish economy – not a bonus.
“What the industry doesn’t need is more uncertainty caused by the SNP’s reckless plans for a second independence referendum.”