Scotland business

Chancellor unveils tax break for older North Sea oil and gas fields

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Media captionGeorge Osborne: "There is a very specific challenge in the North Sea"

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a tax measure to support investment in older North Sea oil and gas fields.

The allowance for "brown field" areas will shield some income from the supplementary charge on their profits.

The chancellor said the measure would give companies the incentive to "get the most out of" older fields.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK told BBC Scotland that the tax breaks could generate a further £2bn of investment.

The Treasury said it was expected that the long-term tax revenues generated by the change would significantly outweigh the initial cost of the allowance.

The brown field allowance will shield up to £250m of income in qualifying brown field projects, or £500m for projects in fields paying Petroleum Revenue Tax, from the 32% supplementary charge rate.

The chancellor increased this charge in his 2011 budget to fund a fuel duty cut after a surge in global oil prices.

The level of relief available to an individual project will depend on its size and unit costs.

Speaking about the new allowance, the chancellor said: "Today's tax allowance is more good news for the North Sea, good news for jobs and good news for the broader economy.

"It will give companies the incentive to get the most out of older fields, creating jobs and delivering more revenue for taxpayers.

"This government has signalled its absolute determination to get more investment in the North Sea, a huge national asset."

'Shot in the arm'

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said: "After imposing the draconian supplementary tax on Scotland's North Sea industry, threatening thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in investment, it seems that the chancellor is finally recognising the vital importance of the oil and gas sector.

"This is just one of the measures I have been calling for over the last year - for the chancellor to move to Plan B for the North Sea."

Mr Salmond added: "For the next half century, our North Sea industry will flourish all the better if it is in Scottish hands."

Oil and Gas UK's economics director Mike Tholen told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme the announcement was "a very good step in the right direction".

He said: "I think the chancellor is right to recognise that many of the older fields in the UK struggle to attract new investment, and this is a bit of a shot in the arm for them.

"I'm very well aware that in the short-term there are some very substantial projects waiting for this announcement, and I'm very confident that there will be some big investments announced in the very short-term.

"We think investments over the next year or so could be at least £2bn better because of the news today."

'Clean energy'

He said such announcements "help to attract new investment to keep these old fields going, which is crucial for everyone in Scotland".

He added: "If we get this right, we're looking at another 50 years activity still in this basin."

Friends of the Earth's head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: "The chancellor should be urgently trying to wean the economy off fossil fuels, not subsidising its addiction.

"Cash-strapped households and businesses have been struggling with the soaring cost of gas and oil for years - and with experts predicting future price hikes, a long-term approach is needed.

"It's time to stop scraping the bottom of the barrel on energy policy - we should invest in clean British energy from the wind, waves and sun as well as cutting waste to create jobs and give us power we can all afford."

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