PROBABLY the most famous number in Britain at this time is £350 million a week. That was the “unicorn” figure that the Leave Campaign put on the side of their campaign bus as the bonus to the NHS if the UK left the EU. It is a very big number and it has long been discounted, but is still talked about.

However that “big number” can also be meaningfully used in Scotland to publicise another real “political” number that should surely be of interest. It just so happens that £350m per week is the present-day value of the daily output of oil from Scottish waters. The figure has been a lot higher in the past, but even today is still that size. Yet for some reason this astonishing value is never publicised, not even in Scotland, not even by the SNP.

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Just why Scottish oil – by far Scotland’s biggest industry – rarely makes any positive headlines surely requires some explanation, particularly during the forthcoming General Election. It is time to put that right.

My interest in Scotland’s North Sea oil goes back a long time. I wrote the SNP’s 1970s Oil Campaign booklet The Reality of Scotland’s Oil. In it we pointed out that the real benefits of having discovered massive amounts of oil in the North Sea would pass Scotland by if we did not become independent. Well, we did not become independent in the 1970s, and we are still not independent in 2019. And, yes, the benefits of the tens of billions of barrels of oil that have been produced from Scottish waters over the past 45 years, all under the control and direction of the Westminster Government, have well and truly passed us by.

In a fairly recent Question Time programme a Scottish Tory MP said that if Scotland were to become independent it would have an economy “like Greece”.

After all that Scottish oil which has propped up England, she was proud to defend Scotland’s place in her “precious union” with such a warning. But why was there no outrage at such a statement being made by someone who would also proclaim that she was proud to be Scottish as well as British? Just where has she been?

On the other side of our North Sea boundary lies our independent neighbour Norway, with a similar population to Scotland. She discovered oil in her waters around the same time as we did, but being an independent country was totally in charge of the exploitation of her own oil. How has she fared over the past 45 years?

For a start she has accrued a major national stake in the ownership of her own oil fields. One of the most amazing outcomes from 45 years of Westminster control of the oil is that not only does Scotland have no stake in our oil, even the UK Government does not have any. A whole raft of state oil companies have stakes in our oil fields.

Norway has also accrued a massive indigenous expertise and manufacturing capacity in oil exploration and development, and the SNP would do well to analyse and publicise just what benefits that is bringing to Norway. For example our so called Scottish-located “floating” wind farms are actually Norwegian. They designed and built them and we subsidise them to put them in our waters.

But the “biggie” for Norway is surely that, rather than being compared economically to Greece, it now has the biggest Sovereign Wealth Fund in the world. A whopping £1 trillion and still rising. What magic did they have to reach that figure? Easy, independence.

As a friend said to me recently “How did the Jocks get it so wrong?’’

We cannot go back now, but we must recognise that Scotland’s oil is still a massive asset. Whether the green lobby likes it or not, oil and gas will still be coming out of the North Sea, and all around the world, for decades to come, such will be the timescale of any climate change transition. Control of it will still bring tangible benefits to an independent Scotland both in revenue terms and in balance of payments terms. That latter factor being one of the main reasons why Westminster will use every dirty trick to maintain control of our oil.

Nick Dekker