Cameron and Salmond clash over North Sea

New OBR figures for North Sea oil revenues show the "deceit" behind SNP independence claims.
New OBR figures for North Sea oil revenues show the "deceit" behind SNP independence claims.

A row has broken out after Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to suggest UK energy ministers did not matter.

First Minister Alex Salmond hit out at the Conservative MP yesterday after he said Chancellor George Osborne takes all “key decisions” relating to the North Sea oil and gas industry.

The SNP leader said the idea that energy and oil ministers were not important was “fundamentally foolish”.

Mr Cameron made the remark after the Press and Journal took him to task for failing to keep a promise he made in 2010 to stop the revolving door of energy ministers.

Last month Matt Hancock became the fourth energy minister in the four years of the coalition as part of a Westminster reshuffle.

There have been 15 oil and gas ministers in London in the last 17 years, prompting the Scottish Government to claim the industry would be treated better in an independent country.

Speaking during a visit to marine engineering firm MacTaggart Scott in Loanhead, Midlothian, Mr Cameron said: “When it comes to key decisions on oil and gas taxation those decisions are made by the chancellor and I have had the same chancellor, indeed the same shadow chancellor, for eight years.

“I think he has been somebody who has listened very carefully to the industry.

“If you listen to them now they are satisfied with the action of the government to make sure we can get decommissioning right and make sure we can invest in fields where oil and gas is hard to recover.

“I think the industry is in good heart and good spirit and by in large it would back the view that the UK is better off staying together.”

Mr Cameron said there had been ministers in the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change for most of the government’s term in office.

But Mr Salmond claimed the prime minister was wrong on offshore taxation, pointing to the unpopular bare boat tax which he said “discriminates against exploration drilling”.

“What is the point of having an energy and oil minister if they are not advising the policies?” he asked.

“This idea that the energy and oil minister do not really matter and it is the chancellor that takes the decisions is fundamentally foolish.

“Especially when that chancellor put forward the disastrous 2011 budget which led to the bust boom conditions in the North Sea at the moment.”

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