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Cabinet to back plan for Scots oil and gas regulator

Plans potentially worth billions of pounds to the Scottish economy are expected to be unveiled as the entire UK Cabinet meets in Aberdeen next week.

HEADING NORTH: David Cameron is bringing almost his entire Cabinet to Scotland as his pro-Union campaign continues.
HEADING NORTH: David Cameron is bringing almost his entire Cabinet to Scotland as his pro-Union campaign continues.

With a number of announcements expected to centre on oil, Energy Secretary Ed Davey is to cut short his paternity leave to attend the gathering in the ­Granite City.

The Liberal Democrat MP faced accusations of deserting his post earlier this week after thousands of homes were left without electricity following devastating storms.

Aides defended his decision, saying he was still in daily contact with his department.

However, he is expected to travel north on Monday to make a series of announcements on energy policy.

A source said of Mr Davey: "He is taking a break from his paternity leave to be there, he has pulled out all the stops.

"He thinks it is very important for him to be there because of important moves from his department".

Prime Minister David Cameron is due to bring almost his entire cabinet to Scotland as his Coalition attempts to open up another flank in its campaign against independence.

By coincidence, First Minister Alex Salmond and his cabinet are also due to meet a few miles away in Porthlethen, Aberdeenshire.

The First Minister has already challenged the Conservative leader to take ­advantage of their close proximity and agree to a debate with him on independence.

But Downing Street sources insist that UK ministers will instead be getting on "with the business of government".

During their meeting the ­Coalition is expected to formally support proposals for a new Scottish-based oil and gas regulator.

Experts believe such a body could encourage and oversee collaboration between investors in the North Sea and ultimately provide a £200 billion boost to the sector over the next 20 years.

An eagerly awaited report by Sir Ian Wood, the retired oil tycoon, into the future of Britain's oil and gas industry is expected to be published at the same time as the cabinet meeting.

Mr Davey is also expected to sign off the next stage of an ambitious carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Peterhead.

Other announcements are expected while a number of ­Cabinet ministers, including International Development ­Secretary Justine Greening and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, are expected to make visits across Scotland to fit in with their portfolios.

However, the Chancellor George Osborne will not be attending the cabinet meeting as he will be travelling back from a G20 summit in Australia.

Last night Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing called on the UK Government to do more to support the North Sea oil and gas industry.

The Scottish Government has already said it supports the full implementation of Sir Ian's interim proposals for a stronger oil and gas regulator.

Mr Ewing called on the UK Government to back those plans "without delay".

"Sir Ian's interim report ­estimated the prize from increased and effective co-operation could be an additional three to four billion barrels of oil equivalent over 20 years, which could be worth £200 billion," he said.

"Time is of the essence. In line with industry, we believe that it is essential these recommendations are implemented with speed, and that a shadow body be set up now, rather than await the outcome of primary legislation."

Labour MP Frank Doran has also called on the Transport ­Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to discuss offshore helicopter safety during the cabinet meeting in Aberdeen.

Monday will mark just the third time in history that the UK Cabinet has met in Scotland.

In 2009 the then Prime minister Gordon Brown took his ministers north of the Border when the Cabinet met in Glasgow. The first time the UK Cabinet met in Scotland was in 1921.

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