Reality checking the oil gauge

Scotland's oil and gas industry

There are many ways to look at the oil and gas accounts from a Holyrood perspective. Throw in enough numbers, ideally counted in the billions, take five different scenarios, publish it as MSPs are about to head off on their summer holidays, and, well, to borrow a phrase, this was a good day to bury bad news.

Except that it wasn't news. The Scottish government's take on the oil and gas industry had very little new to say that hadn't already been picked over by others.

It was significant as a political event, because it forced ministers to publish a document that conceded what their opponents have been saying for some time - that the estimates for oil and gas revenue, as deployed in the referendum campaign, were somewhat over-optimistic.

As the independence cause moved to the case for full fiscal autonomy, the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil sank from $115 to $63 (the level at which it's been trading this week).

You could argue that all this is merely academic if Scotland is not to get full fiscal autonomy. The way things are, the lowered tax take from offshore oil and gas is absorbed into the UK Treasury accounts, and because of the scale of the UK, the fall in funding has roughly a tenth of the impact.

Read full article Reality checking the oil gauge

Gogarburned: Little guys put the heat under RBS bosses

Sir Philip Hampton
Sir Philip Hampton's final RBS annual general meeting was one of the stormiest he has faced

For around two hours a year, the captains of industry are adrift, rudderless, out of control. They are at their annual general meetings, and at the mercy of their shareholders.

The votes are all sewn up, of course. Institutional investors have been courted, lobbied, reassured and sometimes even listened to. That's all behind closed doors.

Read full article Gogarburned: Little guys put the heat under RBS bosses

Subdued anniversary for offshore oil

Oil rig

It will be 40 years tomorrow since the first North Sea oil came ashore in Britain. It was from the Argyll field, and landed by tanker at the Isle of Grain refinery in Kent.

The trickle became a torrent later that year, 1975, when the Queen pushed the button on the Forties pipeline.

Read full article Subdued anniversary for offshore oil

Deficits: good or bad?

Fading £20 note

For those of you who fondly remember last year, we're back in familiar territory, with talk of the deficits Holyrood might face if it had full control of Scotland's taxation.

Short of independence, the Scottish government and 56 SNP MSPs would like full fiscal autonomy - that is, all tax-raising powers, while paying a fee to Westminster for shared roles, such as defence and foreign affairs. Or even funding the UK's £1.5tn debt interest payments.

Read full article Deficits: good or bad?

Royal Bank of Scotland: A new chapter

Royal Bank of Scotland sign

George Osborne told his City of London audience this week that he's not dogmatic about private being good, and public bad.

But there's not much doubt that he thinks private banks are preferable. And he can say it more clearly now that he's unshackled from coalition with the Lib Dems.

Read full article Royal Bank of Scotland: A new chapter

Scotland's growth engine lacks oil

Oil installation

Nearly a year since the oil price began to fall and five months since it bottomed out, the benchmark barrel of Brent Crude remains volatile and we're still not clear what impact it will have on the Scottish economy.

The latest analysis from the Scottish ITEM Club - economists who independently apply the Treasury's economic model - point to the downsides.

Read full article Scotland's growth engine lacks oil

The road to Paris and beyond oil

OPEc seminar in Vienna
The world's big oil exporters are due to attend the Opec meeting on Friday

The world's big oil exporters meet every six months in Vienna. Last November, as prices slid, Venezuela pushed for a tightening of supply to push prices up again. Its public finances badly needed that.

The Saudi oil minister, who calls the shots in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), disagreed. He wanted to maintain market share, and intended to keep pumping.

Read full article The road to Paris and beyond oil

Imports to keep the lights on

Longannet Power Station
It has been warned that the closure of Longannet power station could make Scotland dependent on power from south of the border

The challenge of keeping the lights on has returned to Holyrood, with MSPs looking into the security of the nation's energy supply.

"The nation" is a flexible concept here, as this is a Scottish viewpoint, when everyone agrees that the energy market should remain British, if not expanding into a European single market, with the help of more sub-sea inter-connectors.

Read full article Imports to keep the lights on

From Indyref to Euroref: What's been learned?

referendum comp

A rifle through the attic recently turned up a memory of being 11 years old, newly taken by politics, and collecting stuff - the way boys do.

A tube of posters included campaign material from the 1975 referendum on British membership of what was then the European Economic Community.

Read full article From Indyref to Euroref: What's been learned?

Price inflation: what goes down...

Shopper carrying shopping bags

It's 55 years since we last saw prices falling. It didn't last long, and nor is the deflation of prices announced this week by the Office for National Statistics.

Economists will tell you that deflation is generally a Very Bad Thing. Once people start anticipating that prices will be lower in future, they put off buying goods.

Read full article Price inflation: what goes down...