Scottish independence: Scottish oil claims 'fantastical'

oil instillation The Scottish and UK governments have disagreed over future North Sea oil and gas income

The chief secretary to the treasury has claimed the Scottish government is offering voters a "fantastical" future based on unrealistic oil forecasts.

Danny Alexander's comments, in a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, came after forecasters cut North Sea oil income tax estimates.

Ahead of the independence referendum, Mr Alexander said Scottish ministers needed to put forward "facts".

The Scottish government said the North Sea would be a huge asset for decades.

Meanwhile, businessman Sir Ian Wood, who has carried out a review of the industry's future, said predicting what might happen was "not an exact science" and that there was optimism and pessimism on both sides of the independence debate.

In the letter to the first minister ahead of the 18 September vote on Scotland's future, Mr Alexander wrote: "With voting on the referendum just weeks away, you are still making plans based on the untold oil wealth beyond anything independent forecasters consider plausible.

"This stage in the referendum campaign should be about presenting the people of Scotland with the facts about what separation should mean.

"Instead, you persist in offering a fantastical picture of a separate Scotland's public finances."

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Oil

Read more: North Sea oil: Facts and figures.

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The letter came in the wake of the figures put forward by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which was set up by UK Chancellor George Osborne to provide forecasts of public finances.

The OBR cut its estimate of tax income from the North Sea between 2020 and 2041 by a quarter, to £40bn.

But Mr Salmond has dismissed the assessment as "stuff and nonsense".

Scottish ministers argued the OBR figures were based on a "very low estimate of future total production", which resulted in them being more pessimistic than other estimates - including those produced by industry body Oil and Gas UK.

The Holyrood government previously lowered its own estimates of the country's oil and gas tax revenues over the next five years, although its figures were still higher than those of the OBR.

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Analysis: Tim Reid, BBC Scotland Westminster correspondent

It's yet another spat over oil forecasts - on which not even North Sea analysts can agree let alone politicians fighting over Scotland's future.

But that hasn't stopped the chief secretary writing to Mr Salmond suggesting the first minister is offering Scots a "fantastical" picture with "plans based on untold oil wealth beyond anything independent forecasters consider plausible".

Danny Alexander says the Scottish government's projections are unrealistic and unfair to the electorate.

It follows a further downgrading by the Office for Budget Responsibility on Thursday of expectations from the North Sea over the next 25 years.

But Mr Salmond says those forecasts are too pessimistic and his adviser points to suggestions by an academic who says it is the Treasury itself that had a missing mountain of black gold.

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They put the likely total between £2.9bn and £7.8bn in 2016-17, which could be the first full year of independence under its timetable.

A spokesman for Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said the respected economist, Prof Sir Donald MacKay, had described Mr Alexander's oil figures as missing "a mountain of black gold".

"North Sea oil is a huge asset and will be for many decades to come - and the OBR's forecasts rest on estimates of future production which are well below those used by the industry, by leading experts and by the UK government," said the spokesman.

"Instead of acting as a frontman for a Tory chancellor and an apologist for Tory cuts, Danny Alexander should come clean with the people of Scotland on Westminster's plans to slash Scotland's cash in the event of a 'No' vote."

In the face of competing UK and Scottish government claims, Sir Ian Wood told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I think its like many things in the campaign we're currently in the middle of - there's a fair degree optimism and a fair degree of pessimism on opposite sides."

He added: "It's absolutely not an exact science.

"It depends on the price of oil in the next 20-30 years, it depends on new technology being developed, it depends on the fiscal regime, it depends on the way the regulator behaves, it depends on our ability to attract inward investment into the UK and to Scotland against very significant investment."

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Scotland Decides: SCOTLAND VOTES NO

  1. No 2,001,926
  2. Yes 1,617,989
After 32 of 32 counts Results in detail

Referendum Live

  1.  
    Text 80295 09:10: Referendum - your views

    Richard, Aberdeenshire: I think there is an argument 16- and 17-year-olds should be able to vote but I'm also hit with a sense of predictable disappointment that the parties who are supporting this move are the parties that would benefit from it.

    James, Dalry: Oh definitely. You can't ask 16- and 17-year-old to vote on one of the biggest issues to me in the UK - and then tell them 'Oh you can't vote for a party' [in an election]

     
  2.  
    Text 80295 09:09: Referendum - Your Views

    Ali: If 16-year-olds are old enough to marry and have children and join the Armed Forces, surely they should be able to vote in all elections.

    Ben, Partick: Not a good idea for 16-year-olds to vote. At election they were carefree 71% Yes. Over 65s were 73% against. Fear motive - they had lived.

    Ronald: A vote for independence meant being able to look other Europeans in the face. Not doing so leaves us staring at our feet. Simple as that.

    Gayle: Every argument so far against teenagers voting, was made about giving women the vote. Anyone who has a teenager will be laughing at the implication they have any influence over their teen.

     
  3.  
    09:04: Yes 'feeling persists'

    Independence campaigners, broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and musician Pat King, have been talking to BBC Radio Scotland about where the Yes movement goes from here.

    Riddoch says strong feelings on Scottish independence "are still there in spades".

    While King says: "One of the next things the Yes movement can do - and I think a Yes movement persists - is to find a way to talk to itself, to meet with itself, and to educate itself.

    "The one thing that caused a No vote was an argument about viable economics or currency - we all need to become economists. What that will do is give us a basic confidence in the viability of [an independent] Scotland."

     
  4.  
    09:00: 'Funds to decrease'

    The Times reports that public funding given to Scotland by Westminster could fall over time as more fiscal powers are devolved.

    The Times

    The three UK party leaders have vowed to retain the Barnett formula as part of efforts to persuade Scottish voters to remain in the Union.

    But since last week's vote, Tory MPs have voiced anger at the funding model, which grants £1,600 a head more in public money to Scotland than England.

     
  5.  
    Text 80295 08:57: Referendum - Get Involved

    Stephen, Ayr: Can the failed Yes brigade stop blaming everyone else for an overwhelming No. The majority have spoken. Accept it and move on.

    Jon, East Kilbride: Give us all a rest from this debate. The Yes were well beaten and now harping on about anything: accept you were thumped and get on with life.

    Iain Brown, Dundee (weare45): I believe 16/17-year-olds should be allowed to vote because their contribution to society can make a difference for the future. At the same time, over 70-year-olds should not be allowed to vote. The reason being the kids want what's best for the country going forward, whereas over 70s are stuck in the past and make no work-related contribution to our society.

     
  6.  
    @bbcscotlandnews 08:51: Andy Murray - Your Views

    Alistair Gellatly tweets: And neither he should. Plenty people gave their opinion, many with less right to do so.

     
  7.  
    08:43: Referendum - Get Involved Louise White Presenter, Morning Call

    Alex Salmond is expected to call for 16 and 17-year-olds to be given the vote in all future elections. Do you agree?

    Do you feel more empowered as a result of the referendum?

    Morning Call

    Get in touch via 0500 92 95 00 or text 80295 and listen live to the programme here.

     
  8.  
    08:39: View from NI Mark Devenport BBC News NI Political Editor

    There tends to be a different message here if you talk to nationalists and unionists.

    There is an element of common ground. Which is that Northern Ireland has long been asking for control over its own rate of corporation tax - that's because the headline rate for this tax in the Irish republic is much lower than the UK rate.

    Unionists and nationalists are generally saying 'Look we do want to get that power' and we're expecting David Cameron to make a decision on this - expected to be a positive one - once the Scottish referendum is out of the way.

    But in relation to any broader powers I think there is quite a lot of both economic and political disagreement, with nationalists, in particular Sinn Fein, calling for full fiscal to be devolved to Stormont but unionists saying 'Hang on, we're not sure politically about this' because it would dilute the union or economically.

     
  9.  
    08:30: Harman: PM being divisive

    Ms Harman says she finds it "a bit depressing an unworthy" that the prime minister should approach the devolution issue with the attitude: "'Oh well, if Scotland's going to have extra powers then we'll divide everyone up in England against Scotland'.

    Harriet Harman

    "I think that's divisive and not the right way to do things."

     
  10.  
    08:20: Harman: Powers have to happen

    "It was an absolute promise that was made," says Ms Harman on the issue of further powers for Scotland, adding: "It has absolutely got to be delivered. If you make a promise on the eve of an election... than that it absolutely what is going to happen."

    She says shadow chancellor Ed Balls "absolutely" backs the idea of devolving income tax and other powers to Scotland.

    What is being promised to England "makes no difference" to what is being promised to Scotland, she adds.

     
  11.  
    08:15: Harman on Scotland 'alienation'

    Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman says there is a "major issue" in Scotland with people feeling they cannot have any confidence about jobs or their futures.

    The party needs to address that feeling of "alienation and resentment that was so clearly there," she tells BBC Radio Scotland.

     
  12.  
    08:14: Murray would rethink indyref tweet

    Andy Murray has spoken publicly for the first time about comments he made on the eve of the Scottish referendum. The tennis star was criticised for sending a tweet supporting independence.

    Andy Murray

    "I don't regret giving an opinion. I think everyone should be allowed that," he said.

    "The way I did it, yeah, it wasn't something I would do it again. It was a very emotional day for Scottish people and the whole country and the whole of the UK - it was a big day.

    "The way it was worded, the way I sent it, is not really in my character. I don't normally do stuff like that. So, yeah, I was a bit disappointed by that. It's time to move on.

    "I can't go back on that and I'll concentrate on my tennis for the next few months."

     
  13.  
    08:03: View from Wales Sian Elin Dafydd BBC News

    Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones has emphatically said there is a need to rebuild the UK and give more powers to Wales.

    He's repeatedly called for a constitutional convention on the devolution of the UK. He's been doing it for more than two years - and some say he's been ignored.

    Yesterday he told the Labour Party Conference in Manchester that support for Welsh independence would grow unless Labour honoured its commitment to rebuild the UK.

    He says people don't want independence but they are attracted to parties like the SNP, UKIP and Plaid Cymru because they are so fed up with the status quo.

     
  14.  
    07:56: Lamont 'quitting' rumours Glenn Campbell BBC Scotland news

    Several newspapers are reporting rumours speculating that Labour leader Johann Lamont is considering stepping down as leader of the Scottish Labour party.

    Johann Lamont and Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference in Manchester

    Her press spokesperson denied that last night and pointed to her Labour conference speech about leading the party into the 2016 Holyrood elections.

    It doesn't seem that there is any imminent announcement from her.

     
  15.  
    07:52: Harriet Harman interview coming up... Gary Robertson BBC Radio Scotland

    As Ed Miliband delivers his leaders' speech to Labour's conference @HarrietHarman #bbcgms 0810.

     
  16.  
    07:49: Analysis Glenn Campbell BBC Scotland news

    I think Alex Salmond will tell MSPs that, in his view, the referendum was a success.

    Clearly he didn't win independence, but he'll argue the high levels of voter participation and the high levels of interest from media from all over the world are things that people on both sides of the argument can be proud of.

    I think he'll also commit the Scottish government - and the SNP - to hold the UK political parties to the promises they made on further devolution and protecting the funding formula that supplies the Scottish government with the cash to spend on devolved services.

    Outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond

    He'll also call for votes for 16-year-olds in the next UK general election and subsequent polls because of the interest and engagement they showed in the independence referendum.

    I know that Labour leader Ed Miliband has been supportive in the past and there were reports overnight that he will commit to this in his conference speech later.

    The Lib Dems are also in favour of this but the Conservatives are against it.

     
  17.  
    Text 80295 07:45: Referendum - Get Involved

    ATB, from Sunny Leith by Sea, Zane: One of the funniest things I've heard this week (it is only Tuesday, mind you) it all boils down to a simple slogan - "Wales misses out on funding of around £300m per year, but there is some doubt over the funding calculations." They're going to struggle to get that out on Twitter, since the slogan itself is 113 characters!

    Norrie in Stevenston: Everybody, including the media, keep going on about more powers for Scotland but this wasn't on the referendum ballot paper. Why do we need more powers? Just more layers of bureaucracy and expense we don't need; things are fine the way they are thanks.

     
  18.  
    07:41: 'Why I bet £900k on the indyref'

    One man bet £900,000 on a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum...and won.

    Indyref bet

    He has given a fascinating insight to the BBC on his thought process for a significant political gamble...

     
  19.  
    07:36: SNP 'surge'

    The Herald reports that the SNP is on course to become the UK's third biggest political party, with a 62% surge in membership following the referendum.

    The Herald newspaper

    And comedian Billy Connolly predicts trouble ahead should Prime Minister David Cameron fail to honour his promise of further powers for Scotland.

    Read our newspaper round-up here.

     
  20.  
    @bbcscotlandnews 07:34: Referendum - Your Views

    Julie Thomson tweets: A No vote doesn't mean a #Labour vote. #SNP membership growing.

     
  21.  
    07:31: Scottish papers

    The Scottish newspapers are continuing to reflect on the fallout from the referendum.

    The Scotsman

    The Scotsman quotes the Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague, as saying that the pledge of flagship new powers for Scotland will be honoured.

     
  22.  
    07:30: After the dust settled... James Cook Scotland Correspondent, BBC News

    Politicians return to Holyrood after Scotland rejected independence.

    Holyrood
     
  23.  
    07:26: The Big Yin fires a warnin...

    Billy Connolly has been giving his thoughts on Scotland's referendum.

    The comedian said there would be trouble if David Cameron did not honour his promise of further powers.

    Billy Connolly

    Speaking at the London premiere of What We Did On Our Holiday, he said: "It's 50:50 - 50% of the country are delighted, 50% are disappointed. But Scotland will get used to the idea.

    "If Mr Cameron keeps up his promises we should be okay. If he doesn't there'll be hell to pay."

     
  24.  
    Text 80295 07:24: Referendum reaction

    Dave, Aberdeen: I believe William Hague said a few days ago that any money raised by new powers over income tax would be clawed back with a £ for £ reduction in the Barnett Formula. Is this true?

     
  25.  
    07:21: 'Bitter-sweet occasion' Colin Blane BBC Scotland news

    This will be a bitter-sweet occasion for Scotland's outgoing first minister.

    Alex Salmond lost the referendum and is preparing to stand down but he does so against the backdrop of a sudden surge in membership for the pro-independence parties.

    His own SNP has added more than 20,000 new members in four days - an 80% increase - which means it has nudged ahead of the Lib Dems to become the third largest party in the UK.

    Mr Salmond is expected to tell the Scottish Parliament that both sides in the referendum can take pride in the campaign and in the huge turnout.

    He'll also say the way 16 and 17-year-olds participated makes the case for them to be given the vote in all elections.

     
  26.  
    07:20: Get Involved Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Something you want to get off your chest following Scotland's referendum vote? Send us your thoughts via email, text 80295 or tweet @bbcscotlandnews using #bbcindyref

     
  27.  
    07:18: 'Reflection time'

    Ahead of today's debate, Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick will open proceedings with "time for reflection", a Holyrood slot normally reserved for spiritual or philosophical contributions from religious or secular figureheads.

     
  28.  
    07:16: Holyrood debate

    The debate on the future of Scotland that follow Salmond's statement will go on for two days.

    Alex Salmond

    We'll bring you all the latest lines today and tomorrow as they happen.

     
  29.  
    07:12: Scots made right choice - Miliband
    Miliband speaking

    Also coming up - Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to tell his party's conference in Manchester that Scotland made the right choice voting against independence.

    But he will say a country that comes close to splitting apart "is not a country in good health".

     
  30.  
    07:09: Salmond successor

    The SNP parliamentary group will also meet today, with nominations for Mr Salmond's successor expected to open on Wednesday.

    Nicola Sturgeon

    Almost every member of the Scottish cabinet has publicly backed his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, to replace him as SNP leader and first minister.

     
  31.  
    07:05: Parties respond

    The Scottish Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservative parties will also offer their response to the electorate's decision to reject independence by 55% to 45%.

    Labour leader Johann Lamont is likely to offer to find common ground with the SNP.

    The Lib Dems are expected to urge Yes campaigners not to be bystanders as Holyrood pushes for further powers.

    And the Conservatives will accuse the Nationalists of having no intention of accepting the referendum result.

     
  32.  
    07:02: Salmond vote call

    Mr Salmond, who announced after the No result that he would stand down in November, is also expected to call for 16 and 17-year-olds to be given the vote at future elections.

    Outgoing first minister Alex Salmond

    He is also to vow to hold the UK parties to account over further powers.

     
  33.  
    07:01: Holyrood debate

    First Minister Alex Salmond is to address the Scottish Parliament later - for the first time since Scotland voted against independence.

    MSPs will also hold a debate on the outcome of the referendum.

     
  34.  
    07:00: Referendum reaction Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and welcome to today's live page coverage of the latest post-referendum news and analysis.

     

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