IT is something of a relief, given the grim economic backdrop, to read another report that highlights the huge potential which remains in the North Sea and exciting opportunities West of Shetland.

Scottish Enterprise's Spends & Trends report cites 34 new fields already under development on the UK Continental Shelf, and a further 52 on which work is expected to start by 2016.

The development agency highlights not only tens of billions of pounds of planned investment in the UK Continental Shelf over the five years from 2012 to 2016 but also the knock-on benefits for the oil and gas sector supply chain.

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Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing welcomed the report, which is likely to be music to the ears of First Minister Alex Salmond. Mr Salmond has highlighted repeatedly his enthusiasm about the potential of the North Sea, as the 2014 independence referendum looms.

Leaving aside the constitutional debate, the Spends & Trends report is good news for the Scottish economy. It provides further reassurance that North Sea activity will continue to generate significant wealth and employment through the activities of international and local players.

This in turn should support the continuing internationalisation of Scottish oil and gas services companies, most of which are located in and around Aberdeen.

The success of the Aberdeen economy shows the huge benefits of this shrewd internationalisation. And the oil and gas services sector is a shining example of what Scottish firms can achieve around the globe, at a time when much of the domestic economy is struggling.