A guest post by Andrew Morton
Sir Ian Wood has dramatically, if not unexpectedly, intervened on behalf of the No campaign over the question of Scottish oil reserves. He has berated Alicsammin for getting his sums wrong and relying on a figure for oil reserves given in a highly dubious report authored by, erm, Sir Ian Wood. Magnus Gardham in the Herald assures us that Sir Ian is an honourable man so clearly his motives for this action must be entirely above board.
It has been said by those on the Yes side of the argument that Sir Ian Wood is not neutral, that he is a well known supporter of the Conservative party, that he opposed the Scotland Act in 1979 and that he threatened to move his company to England if Scotland voted Yes in 1997. All of this may or may not be true, I certainly don’t know
Sir Ian has insisted that he had not been contacted by Better Together and was not taking sides in the referendum debate. This may be true although he insists he is “proud to be Scottish and proud to be British” and talks of having “the best of both worlds” adding “There won’t be any going back” all classic Better Together phrases.
So, if we assume that Sir Ian is merely giving an impartial warning to the people of Scotland and sincerely believes that the figures quoted so freely in his February 2014 report are now completely wrong (which should cast doubt on his judgement, but we’ll pass over that) and leaving aside that even his updated figure is many billions of barrels higher than the OBR estimate (which, we’re constantly assured by Better Together, is an unimpeachable source) then we should take heed.
Unless of course there might be another reason.
But what could that be?
In a report from The Herald of 12 November 2013, Mark Williamson, group Business Correspondent writes:
John Wood Group buys US shale specialist
JOHN Wood Group is set to double its bet on the US shale industry despite the controversy about fracking by acquiring a local specialist in a deal that could be worth more than $200 million (£125m)…
… The deal is the latest in a series of shale-focused acquisitions the company has made in spite of the concerns critics have expressed about techniques used to produce from such rocks.
Some claim the hydraulic fracturing process used to release tightly held oil and gas from shale, dubbed fracking, could damage the environment. However, Wood Group has said it would support companies in the UK if society decided they should be able to frack…
…The acquisition of Wyoming-based Elkhorn looks like the biggest in a series of chunky bets Wood Group has placed on the US shale market.
Fast forward to 16 August 2014 and, in the light of the announcement by Westminster that licences to frack Scotland will soon be up for grabs (licences for which the Wood Group are expected to bid), another Herald story tells us:
Scottish ministers bid to keep right to object to fracking
SCOTTISH ministers are to oppose controversial plans that would remove the right of people to object to fracking companies drilling below their homes.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is consulting on proposals that would allow the industry to drill below people’s land without permission. Companies would have the right to drill to depths of 300 metres or more under private land without negotiating a right of access.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said decisions on the issue should be taken at Holyrood rather than Westminster, and a Yes vote for independence in September’s referendum would give Scotland the power to deal with the issue.
20 August 2014, Sir Ian Wood makes announcement attacking Scottish Government’s oil estimates and casts doubt on ability of Scotland to be independent.
Of course, all this may be pure coincidence.