Friday, 18 October 2013

Fresh controversy over west coast oil reserves

A retired Labour MP has re-ignited controversy over oil reserves off the west coast of Scotland.

Saltcoats-man David Lambie, now aged 88, has spoken of conversations he had in the 1980s, in which he was told by Tory MPs that recoverable oil deposits had been located off the Ayrshire coast, but that the UK Government, led by Margaret Thatcher, would not allow fields to be developed because the oil lay beneath waters used by nuclear submarines entering and leaving the Royal Navy base at Faslane on the Clyde.

Mr Lambie was Labour MP for Central Ayrshire between 1970 and 1983, and then for the redrawn constituency of Cunninghame South until he retired at the 1992 UK Election. 

Of the west coast oil controversy, Mr Lambie said, “One of the Tory MPs I was friendly with at the time told me privately that there was oil there but any further exploration was being blocked by the Ministry of Defence because it was a part of the sea they used for excercises and training.”

The respected former politician said oil company BP had been told to “walk away” from an application to develop fields off the west coast, adding, “I was furious – if the people in my constituency had the choice between naval excercises and oil jobs I know which one they would choose.”

the3towns has spoken to a senior figure in the oil industry who said, “There is no doubt there are substantial oil reserves off the west coast of Scotland.  Tests were carried out in the 1980s, which revealed economically viable oil fields.  That was then, when the technology was not as advanced as it is today.  Using 21st Century technology, the potential for recovery of deposits is even greater.”

In the 1980s there were suggestions that the owners of Ardrossan Harbour were reluctant to sell-off any land – even large areas that were lying derelict and unused – because the port was the most likely to be used to service any oil fields off the west coast. 

However, rather than being transformed into a wealthy new Aberdeen, the intervening years have seen Ardrossan and the surrounding area decline into one of the most deprived parts of Scotland, with very high levels of unemployment and poverty.

Opinion polls consistently show a majority of Scots oppose Trident nuclear submarines and missiles being housed on the Clyde.  The SNP has said nuclear weapons would be removed from Scottish waters and land as soon as possible after Scotland re-takes its independence.  The Independence Referendum will be held on September 18 next year.

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