It's whose oil?

The Offshore Europe conference and exhibition opens in Aberdeen today, with delegates from a hundred countries converging on the city for the biggest oil exhibition outside the USA. True to form, if you are not in Aberdeen you probably don't know it is happening. That's a shame, because the role of North Sea Oil in underpinning the UK economy is something that is all too easily forgotten.

In the early years of North Sea Oil, the SNP used to say "It's Scotland's oil" and, sure enough, by normal rules of international boundaries it would seem that the bulk of the oil and the gas on the UK continental shelf was, in fact, in waters that would be Scottish if Scotland was indeed independent.

On the other side of the North Sea, Norway (which has been independent since the early years of the 20th century) has used oil to make itself one of the richest countries in the world, in terms of gross domestic product per head. The SNP, now in government in Scotland, is trying to gain more control of the oil and gas industry off our coast.

But, at the exhibition today, UK Minister at the Scotland Office, David Cairns will tell delegates that it is not Scotland's Oil, but the UK's oil. According to media reports he will tell the delegates that any change would cause instability and scare off investors.

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