SNP denied claim to North Sea oil

The UK government has “no intention” of devolving control of North Sea gas and oil to the Scottish government.

Speaking at an oil industry conference in Aberdeen, Scotland Office minister David Cairns said Westminster “unequivocally” opposed proposals from the SNP that the Scottish executive obtain direct control of oil and gas revenues.

During its election campaign, the SNP said it would seek early talks with Westminster over North Sea oil and gas reserves.

However, they now appear to have been forestalled, with Mr Cairns warning of “many reasons” why the government opposes devolving control of the energy resources.

He told conference delegates: “The interests of both Scotland and the UK are best served through continued economic union and the benefits which accompany a UK-wide approach.

“Our thinking on this issue is therefore unequivocal – introducing needless uncertainty into an £11 billion industry which supports half a million jobs is not an option for the UK government.”

Mr Cairns maintained the oil and gas in the North Sea are a UK asset and not for the sole benefit of Scotland.

Alex Salmond accused Mr Cairns of a “negative” and “knee-jerk reaction”.

Mr Salmond told reporters at the conference: “What this industry needs to hear is a government with a positive vision for the future of oil and gas and the future of the energy industries.

“Those politicians that try to deny Scotland access to our own resources are living in the past.”

Westminster politicians have previously played down the significance of North Sea gas and oil reserves, pointing to a long-term decline in output and revenue.