Gaping Maw

As I continue to fill in for Jim Lynch (who is mending well) I noticed that on Monday of this week he had a rather long letter in the Herald. Told you he was mending. As it was about oil and given that today (Tuesday) the oil workers are striking, I thought I would share JIm’s letter for those who haven’t seen it.




I have to confess that, unlike John- Paul Marney, I am not an oil production expert (Letters 19 Jul 16) so would not regard the Wood Mackenzie report on shale extraction as bedtime reading.  However I am well aware of the fact that there is a moratorium on fracking in Scotland, which is likely to turn into an outright ban for environmental reasons.  I have a sneaking suspicion that no shale would be fracked where he lives.


His rather snide remark that “there may well still be oil and gas in the North Sea” is designed to question the fact of the vast reserves that are there; my comment meant that it would be far safer working in the North Sea than in the oil producing war torn countries in the Middle East.


He states “To hear the way the Nationalists talk of oil you would imagine they had extracted the stuff themselves”, totally oblivious to the facts that the Treasury took all the money. (I never knew that “oil economists” think  of oil income as serendipity, but well, you learn something every day.)  However it would seem he is somewhat lacking in historical knowledge.  Scotland never had the oil;  when it was discovered around the start of the Seventies, Donald Bain, the SNP Research Officer estimated that it could be worth £800 million a year.  The Treasury mocked that figure and said it was negligible – buttons!  They then invented a new heading, the Continental Shelf, and all the oil money disappeared into the gaping maw in Whitehall.  They were terrified of Scottish independence.


Thirty years after that episode, Cabinet papers were released and the McCrone Report was published; this showed the SNP figures were wrong – there was not £800 million, there were billions upon billions, and the facts had to be kept quiet, well away from these greedy Nationalists.  The Civil Service even drew up  provisional boundary changes, showing a “Shetland Box” as Westminster would keep these islands and extending the English Scottish boundary out to Norway.  All this was very hush hush, but after the information was released BBC Alba  produced a documentary “Diomhair” (Secrets) laying bare the whole sorry mess.  The Scottish press virtually ignored the issue, shrugging their Unionist shoulders – it was history!


The sea boundary between Scotland and England was actually changed surreptitiously on 13 Apr 1999.  The border latitude had previously been set by the UK government with the Continental Shelf Jurisdiction Order 1968 at 55 50’.  This order acknowledged Scottish marine jurisdiction north of this border line of latitude which lies east west just north of Berwick on Tweed;  this was also the line to which the Scottish Fisheries Cruisers operated.


According to The Herald newspaper (23 May 1999) the Scottish Adjacent Boundaries Order 1999 was passed by the House of Lords and the Committee on Delegated Legislation on 23 March 1999.   It was not openly debated in the Commons. When the map co-ordinates were finally obtained and plotted in 2010 we found 6000 square miles containing  6 oilfields : Fulmar, Auk, Clyde, Janice, Angus and Fife transferred to England.


In response to his last comment about oil being a curse; this was the Westminster way – Norway discovered similar amounts of oil at the same time, but being an independent country used it sensibly and now have probably the largest investment fund in the world.  They seem happy and prosperous


If you haven’t seen Diomhair and would be interested to do so, you can see it here on youtube