Thursday, 14 August 2014

MSP raises potential oil fields off Ayrshire coast

Local MSP Kenneth Gibson used Question Time in the Scottish Parliament (August 13th) to raise the issue of possible oil fields off the Ayrshire coast.

In November 2013 the3towns reported that Saltcoats-man David Lambie, former Labour MP for Central Ayrshire, had spoken of conversations he had in the 1980s, in which he was told by Tory MPs that recoverable oil deposits had been located in waters off Ayrshire, but that the UK Government, led by Margaret Thatcher, would not allow fields to be developed because the oil lay beneath routes used by nuclear submarines entering and leaving the Royal Navy base at Faslane on the Clyde.

Mr Lambie, now aged 88, represented Central Ayrshire between 1970 and 1983, and was then MP 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 exercises 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 exercises and oil jobs I know which one they would choose.”

This week Cunninghame North SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson asked for the Scottish Government’s view on the assertion that “although large quantities of oil might lie beneath the sea bed of the lower Clyde, such resources cannot be explored or exploited due to the UK Government’s obsession with Trident, which has led to a UK ban on such exploration and exploitation”.

Responding, Fergus Ewing, SNP Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism said, “I note with interest the recent comments of the former [UK] Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, which give some credence to the point Kenneth Gibson makes.
“Production of oil and gas in Scotland is about to increase substantially because of new fields, such as BP Clair, in which production will begin shortly and continue until beyond 2050, EnQuest’s Kraken field and Statoil’s Mariner field.  I can run through many others: Chevron, Premier, Nexen - on and on it goes.  There are new fields and extensions of existing fields, and production will increase massively over the next few years.

“On new discoveries in the Clyde... it is not improbable that some of them will be on the scale of the Norwegian Johan Sverdrup field – the fifth-largest ever discovered - ensuring enormous wealth and opportunities for the people of Scotland, especially young people, for the next half century.”

Mr Ewing noted, “What a shame it is that on every occasion the Tories and their Labour friends talk down this industry, deterring young people from seeking the enormous opportunities that exist.”

In November 2013 the3towns spoke 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 18th.

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