The European Parliament's recent rejection of calls for a moratorium on deep-sea oil exploration is good news for Scotland. The spectre of such a ban first emerged in the aftermath of last year's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but an overwhelming majority of MEPs decided that such a move would be a "disproportionate reaction".

None of this is to say that MEPs - or people in Scotland - don't take safety matters seriously. This summer's leak from Shell's Gannet installation shows that accidents can happen and that complacency is not an option. As well as oil, the North Sea provides thousands of jobs in the fishing and tourism sectors - sectors which are heavily dependent upon a clean environment.
And we know about tragedy too. In Hazlehead Park in Aberdeen there stands a memorial to the 167 men who died in the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster.

The oil companies don't always get things right first time - and the subsequent inquiry under Lord Cullen led to some 106 recommendations being made to improve safety offshore. But the oil industry remains a vital industry - not solely in terms of Scottish jobs but in terms of European energy security too. An estimated 40% of oil and gas reserves remain to be extracted and the North Sea sector has decades to go - if policy makers allow it to thrive.
The UK Chancellor's decision to increase the Supplementary Charge on North Sea oil profits will see operators facing an overall tax rate of 81% on some fields - and Aberdeen University analysis suggests that there will be £29 billion less investment over the next 30 years as a result. Truly a case of the government in London killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Scotland can only look to independent Norway with admiration at the way in which they have invested their oil revenues in massive sovereign wealth funds.

And so the oil industry truly matters. It matters to the EU which has been made very much aware of fuel security issues in recent years. It matters to the UK government who seem anxious to squeeze as much money as they can out of the North Sea - while they're in a position to do so. And it matters to the people of Scotland - who can only regret 40 years of squandered wealth, but who are also thinking of the future and Scotland's place in the world.

That future will undoubtedly have to see a lessening of the world's dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. Scotland is very much aware of this and the Scottish government is keen to push the country to the forefront of renewables technology - to make the country the "Saudi Arabia of renewables". But in the medium term oil will remain an absolutely vital part of the fuel equation - and an independent Scotland would be able to invest the proceeds from continuing development of these resources.

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