Oil services tycoon Sir Ian Wood has said he now favours Brexit as he underlined his view that independence would be bad for Scotland’s economy.

Sir Ian said he had voted in favour of remaining part of the European Union in 2016 but now felt it would be better for the UK to go its own way, so long as it left with a deal in place.

“I voted to stay in Europe; I would now vote to come out,” said Sir Ian.

He added: “I think the discussions [about Brexit] have exposed a number of things. I think Europe’s going to have a difficult future … You’ve got 28 nations in a complex arrangement of economic interdependence. The German economy isn’t what it was, France is having problems, Spain is, Italy is.”

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Claiming that the EU has a huge bureaucracy, Sir Ian noted: “If the vote was to stay in I wouldn’t be over-concerned, it’s not something I have hugely strong views around.” He added: “ But I actually think we would be better off, if we could get it to settle down, out of Europe.”

This means the UK having an exit agreement in place before leaving the EU.

“Coming out without a deal would not be clever,” said Sir Ian.

The business veteran and philanthropist delivered a scathing verdict on the conduct of politicians in the wake of the 2016 vote in favour of Brexit, noting: “I think the last two years have been disastrous for the UK and that reflects badly on everyone.”

However, he said Scotland’s economic interests would be better served by the country remaining in the UK than becoming independent.

“I’m in favour of getting the best status and deal that we can for Scotland’s long term economic future and all I’m going to say is, in my opinion, that’s not independence.”

Sir Ian highlighted the progress made in efforts to make the economy in his native North East Scotland less reliant on oil and gas, for which he has provided millions of pounds backing.

Oil tycoon hails signs of recovery in North East after 'really tough' times

But he thinks the oil and gas industry can still play a big part in supporting the economy while helping in the fight to tackle climate change.

Following calls from activists for oil and gas production to be stopped in the UK, he said: “If you talk about stopping oil and gas in, say, 2030 we’re just going to be importing oil and gas. We will not have anything like enough renewables by that time. Are you going to say switch off the lights in hospitals and in schools?”

Noting the industry supports around 250,000 jobs, Sir Ian said critics who portrayed oil and gas firms as greedy capitalists that only cared about short term profits failed to appreciate how seriously many are taking the climate change issue.

The number one concern of most oil and gas firms is that they should maintain their social licence to operate.

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Infrastructure installed by the oil and gas industry and expertise developed by firms could make a vital contribution to the development of renewable energy resources.

Sir Ian sees most potential in offshore wind and in carbon capture and storage projects, which would utilise depleted reservoirs.

With the right support oil and gas firms could help Scotland become a leading player in the global clean energy business. Governments must step up a gear to help ensure that progress is made at the required speed.

The development of renewables could help North East Scotland make up for the expected decline in oil and gas activity as fields off Scotland run dry.

Sir Ian has committed £63 million to supporting efforts to encourage the growth of other industries through the Opportunity North East (ONE) body, which he chairs.

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ONE has made an impact in efforts to rebalance the local economy by supporting sectors seen as offering the most potential. These include food, drink and agriculture, life sciences, tourism and digital and entrepreneurship.

Sir Ian said a range of really good things are happening in the North East amid a growing readiness to embrace change. He cited the development of a deep water harbour south of Aberdeen and a £370m exhibition centre in the city along with plans for hubs for the life sciences and food and drink industries.