Cambo Convergence

There’s a convergence of pro-Cambo views that brings together the unlikely forces of Brian Wilson, Alex Salmond and the Daily Express.

Writing in the Scotsman Brian Wilson notes: “The decision on whether or not Cambo and other developments proceed should be evidence-led and not based on sloganising or political positioning. We have seen enough of that in the past, with entirely counter productive consequences. Our UK regulators are no patsies. Recently they sent Shell packing with its plans for the Jackdaw field in the North Sea until they come back with better environmental solutions. Maybe we should place a bit of trust in them and accept an evidence-based conclusion without political spin.”

Meanwhile Alex Salmond writes: “We should make the oil majors pay. Cambo should be licensed but with a condition for it to be a zero carbon development. The only way that can be achieved is to help finance carbon capture.”

“That is the sort of development vision which engages Scotland’s resources for the benefit of our people AND for the protection of the planet. With it we can lead the world in responsible production of our energy resources as a proud and independent country.”


Both Wilson and Salmond are leveraging Big Oil against their bitter enemy Nicola Sturgeon. Wilson asks us to have faith in “the regulators”, he suggests there’s such a thing as an oil filed that has “environmental solutions” and blithely suggests that bodies (presumably like the IEA and the IPCC?) are not in fact “evidence-led”.

Salmond is in a fantasy land, the statement: “Cambo should be licensed but with a condition for it to be a zero carbon development” is just nonsense. Zero carbon oil is a logical absurdity and using an oil field to fund carbon capture is plainly stupid.

Clearly Salmond is trying to appeal to his base of unreconstructed 1970s nationalists, while the Daily Express glories in the division and will utilise any such attacks to undermine the First Minister. Some of this is local politics. Salmond is stuck in the past and assumes that Scottish independence cannot be won without oil “For 50 years the clarion call of “It’s Scotland’s Oil” has fired the engine of Scottish independence”. He needs to catch-up and wake-up. The economic case for independence is not based on North Sea oil because the ecological case for Scotland cannot be based on fossil fuels. This is an evidence-led reality.


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  1. Mary McCabe says:

    It’s facile to dismiss “using an oil field to fund carbon capture” as “plainly stupid” without any discussion. We are still using oil-based products and there is an argument that since the technology is available to minimise the carbon that goes into the atmosphere then we should use this technology while extracting the oil under supervision rather than import oil which is extracted elsewhere in the world by countries which won’t attempt carbon capture. As for paying for the carbon capture: we know that the UK Government (which has reserved to itself powers over energy) won’t fund it in Scotland. The next step (since the UK Government long ago abdicated control over the North Sea oil industry) would be to pressurise the oil companies who want to extract this oil to pay for it. Possibly the Scottish Government could pay for part of it too, as a contribution towards the transition programme for turning oil workers into renewables workers. It’s worth discussing at least. If carbon capture turns out not to be possible then leave the Cambo oil in the sea.

    1. GordonD says:

      I first became aware of Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) and its promotion to remove CO2 emissions when I did the Open University’s short course Sustainable Scotland about 12 years ago. The idea behind it is to physically remove CO2 at locations that involve significant consumption of fossil fuels such as power generation and industrial plants. Instead of being released to the atmosphere at least some is captured and then transported to locations where it can be stored. This is most likely to be oil and gas fields that have been depleted. In a reversal of the extraction process the liquefied CO2 is pumped under high pressure in to the porous rocks below the sea. There are quite a few problems with this strategy. 1. It involves a huge investment in infrastructure to be able to capture emissions and then pump the CO2 to where it is going to be stored; 2. There is a significant energy cost in this both in manufacturing the equipment, pipelines, etc. but also in operating it, which goes against a strategy of lowering energy needs and dependence on fossil fuels; 3. The technologies are still being trialled and tested – there is no certainty they will actually deliver it at the scale or in the time scale required (CCS technology is *always* reported as being five years or more away from demonstrating it can work, no one can truthfully claim to know when, or even if, they will actually come about); 4. The Capture part rests on the assumption that there will be no significant leakage of CO2 after it has been pumped underground, but this has yet to be proved.
      The IPCC’s reports on meeting targets to stay within 1.5 degrees of heating already include what many people see as unrealistic assumptions about the development and deployment of CCS to mitigate emissions. But even with these it now alerts us (Code Red) of to need to drastically reduce fossil fuel extraction and use now. The time when it could plausibly be argued that more extraction could be justified because to formed a transition to renewable and allowed business as usual to continue is long gone.
      There is a long running commitment by the Westminster government to trial CCS at Peterhead. But it still had not got past the planning stage for a very small scale project. This BBC report gives some details about its “difficult history”:

    2. The scientific advice from the IPCC, the most authoritative body in the world, and the IEA is that there must be no new oil developments. None. It’s quite simple. Are you aware of this?

  2. Sandy Thomson says:

    “Clearly Salmond is trying to appeal to his base of unreconstructed 1970s nationalists!” That must be a pretty tiny base. If these SNP members were in their twenties or thirties then, they are in their seventies and eighties now. Do you really believe that is the demographic of the Alba party? That is an idiotic statement Mike.

    1. It IS a tiny base. Alba won 1.7% of the regional vote list across Scotland. More recent polling had them at 0%.

      1. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

        Well it doesn’t appeal to this alba member, i don’t think he’s being cynical though, misguided maybe. and I’ve heard a few others not in agreement with this either, but his political base was always in the north east. I didn’t find most of the people at the conference in their 70’s or 80’s, as for typical alba member well i spent the mid 1990’s campaigning with greenpeace and wcwc in bc trying to protect temperate old growth rainforest, and working in organic food production, you really should not assume to much about the alba party membership, and party, it’s early days.

        1. Hi Stuart – so you’re a former Greenpeace campaigner backing a party advocating a new oil field which (initially) will extract 170 million barrels of oil, the equivalent of 18 coal fired power stations for a year?


          1. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

            he’s advocating, not me, it wasn’t on the conference agenda as I renember, he won’t be leader for ever, there’s other reasons for being in the party, just agree on a number of other issues such as the EU, currency etc.

          2. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

            Mr Small, your coming over a bit pathological in your aversion to all things relating to the Alba party. I don’t think Common would be helping them with there policy pamphlet if the party was beyond the pale.

          3. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

            common weal, Robin MacAlpine is helping draft an undated wee blue book.

          4. Ah yes. I think he’s doing that in a personal capacity. I’m not sure anything associated with Stuart Campbell is going to have any impact beyond the tiny sub culture of his followers.

          5. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

            might be better to judge by the content of the text, in terms of ideas’s etc.

  3. john burrows says:

    I understand puratinsm is the modern fad. Since the advent of social media, extremism is the defining characteristic of today’s public environment.

    But, the whole purpose of a functioning democracy is to find a middle way.

    I have a dubious distinction of being involved with these issues since the early eighties. Monitoring CO2 in the Pacific during the latter, a member of the International Ice Patrol in the ninties, monitoring Ozone and atmospheric pollutants in the Arctic since the turn of the century. But, to get to these remote locations, to do this work, has, in all likelyhood, given me a carbon footprint the size of a small town. There must be tradeoffs on this issue.

    Ethics demands we face reality. Pushing people towards utopian dreams can be comforting for the soul, but history teaches us it always ends in tears. Brexit being the most recent example of this disease, here in Britain, with its chief front man, Bertie Booster, a perfect illustration of the carnival huckster peddling magic beans to useful idiots while he steals the candy from their babies.

    Until we have functional alternative technologies which can accomplish these tasks, and the myriad other paths followed by 8 billion human beings as they shuffle through this mortal coil, you cannot expect a credulous public to take seriously the idea that fossil fuel production will cease. Too many people entirely rely on it to function in today’s society. To deny this reality is delusional.

    Mitigation of the damage of fossil fuels is the only workable pathway forward to controlling its effects. Gratuatous use of fossil fuels should be our focus, not its elimination as a source of energy.

    Expanding public integrated transport solutions, work from home, integrated supply chains, fuel efficiency, pollution suppression, expanded use of wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energy, enhanced building codes requiring maximized energy efficiency. Local manufacturing for population requirements. Encoraging people to be happy with a life unencumbered by possessions. The active demise of the consumer society. These are our most productive means of wrestling this problem.

    It is noble to dream of a better world, but convincing approximately 500,000 million folks directly employed in the oil and gas sector, and another billion odd support industry workers worldwide, to quietly take a hike, is not the pursausive argument you think it is. They will not go quietly into that good night.

    Especially given this very industry controls virtually every right of center (and many on the left) political parties on earth today, and funds every single favored think tank shill used by primary media to promote their interests. Indeed, the industry owns much of this very media landscape.

    Unless you propose shooting all these people, we have to accept that the transition away from over reliance on fossil fuels is a multi generational issue. It will not be solved by our generation, but perhaps our efforts will see it resolved by our children’s children. Even those of oil and gas workers. Once you accept that, we can move on to debate the details.

    1. GordonD says:

      I think we have long since passed the point where this narrative, about the choice being between pragmatic realists working for an achievable transition vs impatient utopian idealists, holds any credibility. The science, as laid out by the IPCC, is stark. We have squandered the time we had available to make such an orderly transition from fossil fuels. Instead of investing in or subsidising renewables rather than coal, oil and gas, governments have done the opposite. This means that the cosy story of continued, controlled extraction to form a bridge for business as usual to continue over the next few decades is just simply unfeasible. A fairy story designed to avoid taking the kind of radical action that might actually hold some prospect of avoiding global heating above 2 degrees. The laws of physics can’t be negotiated with to summon up a bit more time for governments and businesses to get their act together. There is a ‘carbon budget’ (that we are about to blow) on the one hand, and a fossil fuel industry (with government support) committed to prolonged extraction on the other. COP26 was a failure precisely because it could not address this reality.

      1. john burrows says:

        What radical action? What are your solutions?

        You live in a country that elected a spluttering buffoon as Prime Minister because he sports a blue rosette and is a bit of a laugh. A semi feudal state going on now for 800+ years. Cognitive dissonance is the norm for the UK electorate. The USA is even more unhinged from reality. What do you propose to bring the despots in China and Russia to heel? Or the religious demagogues in India and the Middle East?

        How do you propose to bring about this radical action faced with an electorate that rejects your ‘we are all doomed’ rhetoric.

        It never ceases to amaze me how many people think they have simple solutions to complex problems. You do yourself no favors by taking the stance of someone standing on a corner with a card board sign, proclaiming that the end is nigh.

        Until you define your ‘radical action’ and how you propose to bring it about without shooting people, you are not a part of the solution.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          The call for unspecified ‘radical action’ is itself a strategy for coping with the stress and discomfort of cognitive dissonance. It’s a cry of frustration and despair at the contradictory nature of the information from which we construct our reality; that is, the dissonance of and among our actions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, values, and perceptual objects.

          According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, when the reality we inhabit isn’t psychologically consistent with each other, we do everything in our power to change that reality to make it consistent. The trouble arises when we lack the power or agency to make the necessary changes to the matrix of actions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, values, and perceptions that constitute us; that is, the changes that would restore us psychologically to a state of peace and justice. It’s at such moments of frustration and despair that we cry out to the gods (the powers that be) for ‘radical action’.

          The recent protest to the powers that be at the COP26 was a striking expression of cognitive dissonance and our inability to resolve it constructively.

          (The classic statement of the theory of cognitive dissonance is Leon Festinger’s ‘When Prophecy Fails’ and ‘A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance’.)

        2. GordonD says:

          Dear John, I suspect that there is much less difference in our positions than you think.
          As I see it, the two extremes in this debate are from those who believe that there is either nothing we can do or should do about the threat of climate catastrophe. On the one hand are the deniers who reject all evidence of the threat, or who downplay the scale of it to the extent that nothing effective is done to avoid it. On the other are the true Doomers, people who recognise the existential threat but no longer believe it is possible to avert it. They accept the inevitability of Near Term Human Extinction and dismiss calls to waste time and emotional energy, as they see it, on working to stop or mitigate it (“Hopium”). In both cases you could say that people are deploying strategies (acceptance or denial) that allows them to cope with the threat and fear that climate change presents us with. The rest of us are in between, doing our best to come to terms with the challenges and find a way forward. It is us who are navigating anger and negotiation, and dealing with fear. How to respond, fight, flight or freeze?
          The thing that comes out clearly from your comments (apart from the obsession with shooting people) is that you do not challenge or dispute the evidence that we have run out of time for the delays and obfuscations coming from governments and the fossil fuel industry (the latest IPCC report was ‘Code Red’ for a reason). No one can contemplate the consequences of continuing with this, given what we now know, and not feel anger or despair. Isn’t that where we both are?
          Pointing out the idiocies of our ‘Leaders’ (emperors without clothes) and calling for action that might do something to prevent catastrophe, is surely a rational response? If we take back control from politicians, businesses and institutions that have failed, what does that mean? Maybe learning lessons from the past when social movements became powerful agents for change (Abolitionists, Suffragettes, Civil Rights, Gay Rights, Anti-poll tax, BLM). There are plenty of tools in the toolbox: civil disobedience, disruption to business as usual, direct actions to damage or delay the polluters plans. The Cambo field is a case in point. Without public push back this would have just been automatically agreed (even celebrated). Now we see even Nicola Sturgeon coming off the fence (which took me by surprise). When ordinary people find common cause and create solidarity across borders we are a power to be reckoned with. The anthem of my union is Solidarity Forever. It says “In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold / Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold / We can bring to birth the new world from the ashes of the old / For the union makes us strong.” (Although of course when it was written in 1915 the ashes referred to were metaphorical. The ashes coming out of runaway climate change will be very real).
          But anyway, it is certainly true that “Without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn” so Solidarity Forever.

          1. Mons Meg says:

            But what specific actions are you calling for, Gordon?

            I’m calling for the persistent deployment of immanent critique in every site of thought and action, with a view to subverting the hegemony that our current relations of production and their ideological expressions exercise over our lives, driving their inherent contradictions into ever deeper unsustainability, and thereby facilitating ever deeper and ever more irrecoverable crises. Helping with the work of deconstruction, in other words.

            It’s time to stop fannying about with the usual iterations of bourgeois ‘activism’.

          2. john burrows says:

            If I understand you correctly, wide spread civil disobedience is the radical action required. Good luck with that.

            At this very moment, the Tory government is pushing through a bill to strip you of your right to protest, to politicize the judiciary, and to remove parlimentary oversight of ministerial fiat. All under the guise of securing the “national interest.”

            The fact they have resurrected the tyrant Henry VIII’s interpretation of law, is no coincidence. By this one act alone they have clearly signaled their true intentions.

            Consult your brothers and sisters of Insulate Britain, now under legal restraint, for how you will be able to execute widespread civil disobedience in the face of an authoritarian regime determined to make use of “law” to crush any resistance to their plans.

            Singapore on the Thames indeed.

            My reference to shooting people is not an obsession. I am just illustrating the fact that radical change is often accompanied with widespread bloodshed when opposing parties surrender to their passions.

            As an example, the Republican party in the USA has literally embraced a fascist tyrant as their champion. With Mitch McConnell having stuffed the judiciary with like minded judges, they will provide the legal shield to the coup d’etat that will be executed during the next presidential election. Shooting people who hold opposing views to the GOP agenda is very much on point these days in America.

            Even you must recognize that the conservative element of human society has been de evolved to a 17th century attitude that those who oppose them are criminals. How can one have reasoned debate with people who have disappeared up their own fundament? The latter image is even a meme with a certain political cartoonist in the Guardian.

            The radical action you crave in these troubled times can only lead to civil war, given that conservative thinking has retreated to reactionary incoherence.

            If you need an example of radical action I would support, I recommend that the best legal minds find a way to imprison Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, the surviving Barclay brother and the Mercer clan in the US. These actions alone would, at a stroke, eliminate 90% of the feed stock of hatred that has brought the democracies of the anglosphere to their current state.

            Even Bertie Booster has admitted that Murdoch’s Telegraph is his true boss. Cut off the head to kill the snake is a true and tried methodology that involves the least bloodshed and the greatest gain. The very platforms these evil people have created are also the primary sources of the misinformation that prevents rational discourse over climate change.

          3. john burrows says:

            Sorry, Bertie Booster’s boss is Barclay’s Telegraph.

            Not much difference from the others, come to think of it.

            I suppose thinking of them all as manifestations of the same demon, works just as well.

            If we can drag one in front of the International Criminal Court, it would help with the rest of the prosecutions. A stake through one could get rid of all of them. There’s always hope.

            Pardon the religious imagery.

          4. Mons Meg says:

            ‘I recommend that the best legal minds find a way to imprison Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, the surviving Barclay brother and the Mercer clan in the US.’

            Well, good luck with that! I think you’ll find that these guys can afford to pay the best legal minds to keep them out of prison. And even if you could remove such individuals, their business rivals would just rise to take their place on the surface.

            The problem with our current state is structural rather than superficial; it has to do with the relations of production under which we currently labour (‘capitalism’) and the cultural expressions to which they give rise (‘modernity’) rather than with the conspiracies of ‘evil’ men. Indeed, the modern idea (which finds its classic expression in Machiavelli) that our current and future states are to be understood as the product of actual or possible human conspiracy/agency, rather than of blind historical determinism, is itself part of the total problematic.

            Which is why I call for the persistent deployment of immanent critique (the methodical practice of doubt) in every site of thought and action, with a view to subverting the hegemony that our current relations of production and their cultural expressions exercise over our lives.

  4. Graeme Purves says:

    Spot on, Mike! I think Salmond’s notion of a “base of unreconstructed 1970s nationalists” is probably largely a fantasy too. If such a thing had existed, Abla would have achieved more than the derisory level of support at the election in May. There appear to be only a very few surviving 1970s nationalists who remain ‘unreconstructed’.

    1. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

      I know george kerevan is getting on, but cant say he fits that bill. and it is a republican party, and pro EFTA so not sure it’s a un reformed 1970s SNP. though the old SNP did know the objective was independence.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        I think you’ll find that George Kerevan claimed to be a Trotskyist in the 1970s. His political odyssey is nearly as impressive as that of Danus Skene. 😀

        1. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

          that’s a pretty silly and shalow response.

  5. Chris Connolly* says:

    It speaks volumes that the Daily Express led with this story. Alex relies on the political right to keep him relevant because they see him as a thorn in the side of the SNP, who they detest. He is a pawn in their game; to most of the rest of us he is a totally tarnished figure fighting a losing battle to retain any influence at all.

    It was reported that he claimed Nicola’s opposition to Cambo treats oil workers in the same way that Margaret Thatcher treated the miners in the 1980s. That is a ridiculous suggestion; one is a pragmatic response to climate emergency; the other was aimed simply at breaking the power of the NUM. I don’t believe he doesn’t appreciate the difference; he is being disingenuous in order to make a point that’s actually invalid, as politicians and journalists have been doing since the Year Dot.

    1. Graeme Purves says:


      1. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

        no, not really graeme, and the alba party isn’t just alex salmond, but as a question please tell us how far the current fm has got us to independence?

        1. Chris Connolly* says:

          If you think independence is more important than the survival of the Earth as a habitable planet your priorities are badly awry. I want Scotland to be free of Westminster rule as much as anybody else, but not at that price.

          You don’t have to be pro- or anti-Indy, Catholic or Protestant, black or white, gay or straight, man or woman or Sunni or Shia to prioritise the environment. If we don’t, all that other shite will mean nothing because we’ll be dying of heat and thirst amidst the greatest refugee crisis the world has ever seen.

          1. Stuart Alexander Jackson says:

            Obviously it’s not but with out it there isen’t much we can do to stop it in Scotland, the point I made in the beginning, where I said I was against his stand, is that it isn’t party policy, but his view. A piont I will be making at the National Council.

  6. Jenny says:

    Leave the oil in the ground. We need radical change in our society to have a sustainable planet.
    Listen to young people. Listen to indigenous people. Listen to scientists.

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