Rising prices, the secret report, and the black black oil
We already pay the highest fuel and heating bills in Europe – despite being an energy-rich nation.
You need to go back to 1974 to understand why we are so powerless.
That’s when the British government commissioned a report on the then newly discovered North Sea oil and its economic implications for Scotland.
The document packed such a punch it was stamped “secret” and locked away for 30 years.
It was written by Professor Gavin McCrone against the backdrop of a rising SNP and growing support for independence.
Professor McCrone said an independent Scotland would be among the world’s richest nations, with a budget surplus so large it would be “embarrassing”.
The SNP at the time claimed that North Sea oil would earn £800million a year for the government by 1980.
McCrone said that forecast was “far too low”. Annual earnings would be more like £3billion.
He predicted that Scotland’s currency would be “the hardest in Europe” and this level of prosperity would continue “for a very long time into the future”. He also suggested England could borrow from its wealthier neighbour.
But the report was suppressed, independence was postponed and Scotland gave her oil wealth away for nothing.
The Labour government in 1974 ordered McCrone’s paper to be classified immediately. It was restricted in much the same way as top military secrets.
In the 30-odd years it lay in the vaults, £300billion of oil tax revenue flowed from Scotland to the Treasury.
All that time, Labour and Tory politicians told Scots they were too poor to run their own country.
They all kept schtum about McCrone, even during the Thatcher era when Scotland’s industry was devastated. Our oil revenue built the Channel Tunnel and bought nuclear weapons but our shipyards, steelworks and mines were run down. The oil revenue financed tax cuts for the rich financiers and property speculators of the south-east of England, while millions of workers languished on the dole.
All the while, we were told we’d be as poor as Bangladesh if we dared take our country back.
We didn’t know the secret McCrone report said we’d be as rich as Switzerland. Well, we know now. The report was finally uncovered in 2005 thanks to Freedom of Information Laws.
But it is not as widely publicised as it should be. This is a good time to remind ourselves of McCrone, and not just because of the rising cost of heating the house and filling up the car.