It was rather predictable that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in London would again underplay the value of oil to the Scottish and UK economy considering the coming referendum on independence ("SNP accused of 'madness' to base separation case on oil", The Herald, July 18).

Its previous estimates on the value of a barrel of oil has been bizarrely low in comparison to others, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OBR was established by George Osborne in 2010, criticised by Alistair Darling for being partial, and is not a tried and trusted body by any stretch of the imagination.

Companies exploring for oil and gas in the North Sea invested £11.4 billion in 2012 according to Oil and Gas UK, which comprises 320 companies active in the area. A figure they predicted would increase in 2013. Spokesman Malcolm Webb recently said: "The UK continental shelf is benefiting from record investment in new developments and existing assets and infrastructure, the strongest for more than three decades. Survey results lead us to forecast 130 exploration wells over the next three years which should result in many more barrels being discovered."

He fully expects oil to continue being extracted from the North Sea for at least the next 50 years.

We are all aware, or should be, of the report commissioned by the UK Government in 1974 from Professor Gavin McCrone regarding the then future potential of North Sea oil and gas. McCrone concluded in his report that an independent Scotland's balance of payments would have a "chronic surplus to quite an embarrassing degree". His report was made secret by the UK Government and not revealed until 2004 under a Freedom of Information request.

The former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healy more recently admitted that the UK Government had indeed been economic with the truth, saying in an interview: "The value of oil to the UK is a prime motivation behind Westminster opposition to independence now and in the 1970s. I think we did underplay the value of oil to the country."

North Sea oil and gas is a finite resource. Like other natural resources it will run out. Nobody could seriously dispute that. Being economic with the truth and concealing the facts is tantamount to lying and I see no difference between the UK Government's position of today and that of the 1970s and 1980s when we Scots were also being ridiculed on a daily basis as "subsidy junkies".

James McElhill,

50 Craigielea Road,


The McCrone report of 1974, hidden from Scots, told the Westminster Government that if Scotland gained independence it would become one of the wealthiest countries in not just Europe but the world. The report also pointed out that Scotland would have had one of the strongest currencies and, I believe, if we had gone for independence in the early 1970s we would now have in Scotland an economy to rival that of Norway.

The gloomy forecast by the OBR, which was so readily pounced upon by Alistair Darling, one of those who got us into the current economic mess in the first place, and the No campaign to once again do down Scotland, beggars belief. For one thing it is no great secret that North Sea oil is in the second half of its life and while production will never hit the highs of the late 1980s it does have another 50 or so years of recoverable reserves. Then there is the actual reliability of the OBR forecast; as I seem to recall it has not once got a forecast that is anywhere near approaching a modicum of accuracy.

When are the No campaigners proposing to tell the Scottish people about the reserves that lie to the west of the Hebrides between Rockall and the Faroe Islands? I suspect all these details are safely, so they think, in some secret Government report and just like McCrone's report is hidden away.

When you live in the Shetland Islands, we do tend to talk with oil men, especially those on survey ships, and they do talk about exploration work they have carried out off the Irish coast and the new fields about to come on stream in the Porcupine Basin.

The really sad thing about this report is that it came on the same day we were reading that Glasgow has the third highest rate of child poverty in the UK behind Birmingham and Manchester. What I cannot understand about the current Labour Party is why it is so set on remaining with Westminster and what is effectively a failed state when it could be looking forward to a fairer and more socially just Scotland with independence and where we really could do something to rid our country of this shameful legacy of child poverty that is of Westminster's making.

C Gallagher,

Tigh Na Mara,



Your front page story describes the OBR as an "independent fiscal forecaster" that has projected steep reductions in North Sea oil revenues.

Is this independent fiscal forecaster the same OBR that Better Together chief Alastair Darling reportedly described in 2010 as "not just part of the Government, but part of the Conservative Party"? As industry leaders and oil academics have pointed out, such doom-laden forecasts are entirely at odds with the much more optimistic predictions of other (better-qualified) organisations. It is unfortunate, but perhaps predictable, that when what he might call Tory propaganda is aligned with his No campaign's agenda, Mr Darling appears less sceptical.

Dennis Healey admitted earlier this year there was systematic deception of the Scottish people about the extent of oil revenues by successive Westminster governments in the 1970s and 1980s, to deter Scottish independence. It is clear to many the same thing is happening again.

C Hegarty,

7 Glenorchy Road, North Berwick.

So the No campaign is back to that old question: what will Scotland do when the oil runs out?

The question –what will Britain do when the oil runs out? – is conveniently ignored, but the real question should be – what will Scotland do before the oil runs out? – not after.

An independent Scotland could have an oil fund to develop new industries, concentrating on renewables and alternative fuels, whereas Britain will continue to do what it has always been doing: lining the pockets of shareholders and living for today, making no plans for the future as the money is squandered.

At present oil is the backbone of Britain's economy, and the UK Government and the CBI are terrified Scotland will take control of that economy while it still lasts. The people of Scotland have an opportunity in next year's referendum to turn the tables. If they do not do this, British living standards (for the majority) will sink to Greek levels after the last of the oil money has been evaporated, with nothing to show for it except wealth for the wealthy. The top 1% of the population will continue to hold shares in global wealth, but there will no longer be a society of opportunity for ordinary citizens. Our descendants will curse us for missing an opportunity.

Jeff Fallow,

1 Brown's Buildings,

Leven Road,



What fool would brag about accelerated exploitation of a scarce and valuable resource? Perhaps a fool seeking short-term profits and bragging rights prior to an event in September 2014.

William Durward.

20 South Erskine Park,


Do I understand correctly – if we vote Yes next year, the oil will run out in just over 30 years, but if we vote No everything will be idyllic for all eternity?

Inevitably income from oil will dwindle, but spread among six million people it will last much longer than if 60m have to share it.

That period can easily be extended by John Swinney's canny husbandry compared with George Osborne's desperate grasping of every widow's mite he can get his millionaire's hands on.

In the meantime, we have the expertise to come up with an alternative for many or our energy needs.

James Clark,

8 Thistle Place,


YESTERDAY'S contributions from Iain Macwhirter ("BBC Scotland not to blame for anglocentric news schedules") and Andrew Marr ("2014 vote result will be close, claims TV presenter") make interesting reading.

Marr's opinion that the referendum result will be a lot closer than is thought in the metropolitan bubble seems like common sense to me.

When handing out Yes Scotland leaflets in the street, I have been struck by the positive attitude of most of the passing citizenry. The times when I and my colleagues have been met with hostility are very few and far between.

In my experience, people are glad to be given information about the big decision Scotland faces next year and are prepared to give credence to the case for independence.

Iain Macwhirter's column on broadcasting to Scotland echoes my own dissatisfaction with BBC and Sky news. Like his family, my wife is fed up hearing me snort: 'This is regional news"' when a story about the NHS in England, the English education system or the London Mayor is presented as though it applied throughout the UK.

The recent controversy about the number of Trident submarines is a case in point. Nowhere in the "national" coverage was it mentioned that in the event of Scotland becoming independent, Faslane could no longer house weapons of mass destruction; the focus was entirely on what the Westminster parties had to say.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am fed up with being a citizen of an invisible country. We need more than just an improved Scottish news or the temporary presence of a distinguished expatriate broadcaster; we need to take charge of our own broadcasting and have current affairs programmes that reflect the world from a Scottish, rather than a London perspective.

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale,