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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Scottish oil rights

The extraction rights and licenses over oil in the North Sea (let's ignore gas for the moment which is mostly offshore from England) are claimed by the United Kingdom and agreed by treaty even though most of the area claimed lies outside UK territorial waters.

It seems a little presumptuous to think that just by claiming independence that any of this money would revert to a new Scottish government.  The rights are all granted by the Crown and royalties are paid pursuant to licensing agreements.  It seems to me that the UK government would have little interest in assigning those rights and in the absence of any amendments to treaties it would be quite entitled to maintain its interest in any oil fields outside Scottish territorial waters.

The point is that a country is usually entitled by international agreements to the mineral rights oin its half of the median line between two countries.  The median line in the North Sea was reached by negotiation between the parties involved.  Scotland was not one of the parties involved in the treaty negotiations over the North Sea, so if it did secede from the United Kingdom and was not a signatory to any treaty, I doubt that it would have any rights under international law over those oil fields.

And we can hang onto them.  If the Scots want to take them they would have to send the navy that they haven't got.
The fields in the Southern North Sea are all gas fields and have nothing to do with Scotland.  When a Scot tells you that the UK government has taken £186 billion from the North Sea, it is worth pointing out that a lot of that number comes from the "English" gas fields below plus Morecambe Bay.



4 comments:

Demetrius said...

I have asked the delicate question of what currency Scotland might adopt. Without its own it is not independent. As for the pound the residual UK government cannot allow a potentially profligate element to wreck it.

ThistleBlower said...

Scotland already has the pound sterling, and would have no need to adopt any other currency post-independence. Having your own own currency is not a prerequisite of nationhood, and the pound is as much Scotland's currency as it is England's. Scotland already owns a significant share in the Bank of England, which is jointly owned, and was already using the pound long before the Act of the Union in 1707. As for any "profligate element" intent on wrecking the pound, do you mean a profligate element other than Westminster ?

Regarding the question of North Sea oil; the author has entirely failed to consider the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which was signed and ratified by the UK, and which is used in defining the maritime assets of newly formed states and resolving international disputes regarding maritime rescources. That convention would place around 90% of North Sea oil fields within Scottish jurisdiction. You will be welcome to challenge the UN over this issue.

Since those supporting the Unionist cause have no reasoned argument against Scottish independence, nor are they able to adequately explain why Scotland's finances should be controlled by a government that Scot's did not elect, then is only natural that they must turn to misinformation and scare-mongering in order to try and dissuade Scots away from the notion of independence.

All that will significantly change in a post-independence Scotland is that the Scottish parliament will have a full say on the issues that matter to Scotland, and that a Scottish vote will actually account for something. When one makes themselves aware of the facts, then it becomes clear that a scare-a-day from the Union camp will certainly not keep independence at bay.

E M K A S said...

I stumbled upon this article while doing some readings on north sea oil & gas, post Scotland referendum.

Guess what, some of the questions may well be questions until the next referendum take place :P

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