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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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WHITEFORD BACKS 'OIL FUND' FOR SCOTLAND

Friday, 31 July 2009

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has backed proposals from Finance Secretary John Swinney for an 'Oil Fund' for Scotland, similar to that which operates in Norway.

The SNP candidate gave her backing to the proposal as Mr Swinney undertook a round of engagements in Peterhead yesterday (Thursday).

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"Successive Conservative and Labour Governments have squandered the opportunity to ensure that Scotland benefits from the offshore resources on our doorstep.

"The Norwegians recognised what oil could mean for their country if handled correctly, and that is why today Norway's oil fund is worth over £200 billion. But then, Norway is an independent country with control of its own affairs, unlike Scotland."

An oil fund would secure billions of pounds of benefits for people in Scotland now and in the future, John Swinney said.

The Scottish Government has this week published a new discussion paper - a strand of the National Conversation - which sets out options for a Scottish oil fund which would invest a share of present oil revenues to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

Adjusted for inflation, £230 billion of tax revenue has come directly from Scottish waters over the past 30 years. The paper presents a range of models on how annual or one-off investments could provide a sustainable income to support the economy and seeks views on the best model for Scotland.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said:

"Scotland has immense natural energy resources. Alongside our burgeoning renewables industry, estimates suggest there are 25 billion barrels of oil and gas in the North Sea, worth hundreds of billions of pounds, still to be recovered.

"I believe there are clear merits in establishing an oil fund to provide permanent wealth long after our oil and gas reserves are gone.

"Investing a portion of revenues in an oil fund could provide greater stability, protect the economy and support the transition to a low carbon economy. Without any burden on the oil and gas industry, that means benefits for Scots today and crucially, it means Scots in the future will reap the benefits of a finite resource.

"Norway's oil fund is worth over £200 billion and Alaska uses a proportion of its oil fund to pay an annual dividend to its citizens, worth an average of over £1,000 each year in the past decade. The UK is practically alone among major oil and gas producers in not having an oil fund, despite an oil fund enjoying the support of previous UK Energy Ministers. The UK Government has without doubt wasted billions of pounds of Scottish North Sea revenue.

"Devolving control of North Sea taxation and production to the Scottish Parliament would allow us to enhance and maximise the competitive advantage of the oil and gas industry, increase even further its worldwide reach and ensure oil and gas resources provide a sustainable and lasting benefit for this country.

"An oil fund is strongly in Scotland's long-term economic interest and the UK Government can no longer oppose the people of Scotland enjoying the oil legacy they are entitled to."

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