Stealing Scottish Seas

Stealing Scottish Seas

Craig Murray is a blogger, human rights activist and former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has many interesting tales to tell.

One of these tales relates to the stealthy theft of 6,000 square miles of Scottish Sea [and associated oil deposits] by England just as the United Kingdom devolved power to the Scottish Government.

Now tell me Labour or Westminster can be trusted with Scotland’s interests.

Craig John Murray (born 17 October 1958) is a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and was Rector of the University of Dundee (2007–10).

While at the embassy in Tashkent, he accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses, which he argued was a step against the wishes of the British government and the reason for his removal.

Murray complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2002, January or early February 2003, and in June 2004 that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda was unreliable, immoral and illegal, as it was thought to have been obtained through torture.

He described this as “selling our souls for dross”.

He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on 14 October 2004.

The story begins in 1968 when the Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order determined that north of latitude 55° 50′ North [beyond Scotland’s territorial waters in the North Sea] were under the jurisdiction of Scots law.

The Continental Shelf Act 1964 and the Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order 1968 defines the UK North Sea maritime area to the north of latitude 55 degrees north as being under the jurisdiction of Scots law meaning that 90% of the UK’s oil resources were under Scottish jurisdiction.’s_Scotland’s_oil

Jurisdiction Order 1968

Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order 1968 (No. 892 – 7 June 1968)

Click to access GBR_1968_Order892.pdf

The Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order of 1968 established the boundaries of Scotland’s Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] as prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast.

In colloquial usage, the term may include the continental shelf.

The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit.

The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal state’s rights below the surface of the sea.

The economic ramifications of this legislation came into sharp focus the following year when oil [and subsequently gas] was discovered in the North Sea.

The situation was transformed in December 1969, when Phillips Petroleum discovered oil in Chalk of Danian age at Ekofisk, in Norwegian waters in the central North Sea.

The same month, Amoco discovered the Montrose Field about 217 km (135 mi) east of Aberdeen.

The value of Scotland’s oil resources began to be realised when oil production commenced in 1975 – just two years after the price of oil had quadrupled.

UK Oil Production

Energy in Scotland: A Compendium of Scottish Energy Statistics and Information
The Scottish Government

Oil production started from the Argyll & Duncan Oilfields (now Ardmore) in June 1975 followed by Forties Oil Field in November of that year.

After the 1973 oil crisis, the oil price had quadrupled.

Unsurprisingly, the British government became very nervous that Scottish Independence might deprive them of a North Sea Oil taxation bonanza and this motivated Ted Heath’s Tory government to commission Professor Gavin McCrone’s secret report regarding the viability of an independent Scotland in 1974.

The McCrone report is a UK Government document which was written and researched in 1974 on behalf of the British Government of the day (Conservative, led by Edward Heath).

It was composed by Professor Gavin McCrone, an employee of the Scottish Office, at St. Andrew’s House in Edinburgh.

The eighteen-page report focused on the likely effects of North Sea oil revenue on the economic viability of an independent Scotland.

The report was classified as ‘secret’ by civil servants at the time, and successive UK Governments kept it so, over fears that McCrone’s findings would give a further boost to the SNP’s policy of Scottish independence.

McCrone report
The McCrone Report

Click to access mccronereport.pdf

This report wasn’t released under the 30 year freedom of information rule and it wouldn’t have been.

It was the result of the inspiration of Davie Hutchison who used the freedom of information legislation to dig deeper and deeper into the archives, using references in some archives to ask for other documents until this top secret report was discovered.

The Scottish Economy Report they Classified TOP SECRET

It was a document that could have changed the course of Scottish history.

Nineteen pages long, Written in an elegant, understated academic hand by the leading Scottish economist Gavin McCrone, presented to the Cabinet office in April 1975 and subsequently buried in a Westminster vault for thirty years.

It revealed how North Sea oil could have made an independent Scotland as prosperous as Switzerland.

How black gold was hijacked: North sea oil and the betrayal of Scotland
The Independent – Ben Russell and Paul Kelbie – 9 December 2005

In appears that in 1977 the Labour government, under the leadership of Jim Callaghan, may have considered redrawing the maritime boundaries so that England could steal Scotland’s oil.
[Note: But this is solely based upon the following graphic of unknown origin.]

1968 Boundary

However, ten year later, in 1987, the British Government did decide to make some minor changes to the Scottish jurisdiction boundaries [aka the Scottish Exclusive Economic Zone].

Civil Jurisdiction (Offshore Activities) Order 1987

1987 Co-ordinates

The Civil Jurisdiction (Offshore Activities) Order 1987

EEZ - Scotland

The discontent in Scotland grumbled on for another 10 years until Tony Blair eventually allowed Scotland to vote in a referendum in 1997 for a Devolved Scottish Parliament.

Devolution continued to be part of the platform of the Labour Party which, in May 1997, took power under Tony Blair.

In September 1997, the 1997 Scottish devolution referendum was put to the Scottish electorate and secured a majority in favour of the establishment of a new devolved Scottish Parliament, with tax-varying powers, in Edinburgh.

The success of the Scottish referendum led to elections in May 1999 and the transfer of devolved powers the the Scottish Parliament on 1st July 1999.

An election was held on 6 May 1999, and on 1 July of that year power was transferred from Westminster to the new Parliament.

However, Tony Blair’s government wasn’t going to risk waving goodbye to their North Sea Oil taxation bonaza in 1999.

United Kingdom Continental Shelf production was 137 million tonnes of oil and 105 billion m³ of gas in 1999.

The production is expected to fall to one-third of its peak by 2020.

UK oil production peaked in 1999 and had declined 67% by 2012, but petroleum still contributed £35bn to the UK balance of payments in 2011.

Instead, Tony Blair’s government arbitrarily decreed [before any powers were devolved to Scotland] a change to the Scottish maritime boundaries which resulted in the Argyll [aka Ardmore], Auk, Clyde, and Fife oilfields being transferred to England on the 1st July 1999.

The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999
(2) The principal appointed day is 1st July 1999 by virtue of article 3 of the Scotland Act 1998 (Commencement) Order 1998

The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999

Click to access data.pdf

The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 is a statutory instrument of the United Kingdom, defining “the boundaries between waters which are to be treated as internal waters or territorial sea of the United Kingdom adjacent to Scotland and those which are not.”

It was introduced in accordance with the Scotland Act 1998, which established the devolved Scottish Parliament, replacing the Civil Jurisdiction (Offshore Activities) Order 1987 and the Criminal Jurisdiction (Offshore Activities) Order 1987.

The really strange aspect of this English Acquisition is that it establishes an legal “area of uncertainty” because [contrary to the claims in Wikipedia] neither the Scotland Act 1998 nor the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 make any explicit references to the Civil Jurisdiction (Offshore Activities) Order 1987.

1987 Boundary
Going it alone – Sanjoy Sen – March 2014

Click to access 873oil.pdf

The North Sea oil and gas industry as a whole contributed £35 billion to the UK Treasury in 2014.

Around16 billion barrels of recoverable oil is still thought to exist offshore of Aberdeen and west of the Shetland Islands.

But exploratory drilling in the region fell to just 12 wells last year, down from 44 in 2008.

North Sea oil production rises despite price fall
The Telegraph – Andrew Critchlow – 3 Aug 2015

The more shocking aspect of this English Acquisition of “6,000 square miles of Scotland’s sea” is that it was effected by government decree [aka a Statutory Instrument which can only be annulled by a “prayer”] without parliamentary debate or a parliamentary vote.

But the entire basis of the secondary legislation is that parliament has delegated to ministers, in Acts, powers to sign off uncontroversial matter.

This can be, for example, the detail of regulations needed technically to enforce primary legislation, and the occasional updates needed.

Only a very low percentage indeed of secondary legislation ever gets queried by the Lords, but that is not because of a constitutional convention. That is because most of it is dull stuff.

But when the government abuses its authority and tries to smuggle vital changes through secondary legislation, the Lords not only has the constitutional right to challenge this abuse, it has the constitutional duty to do so.

I wish they would do it more often.

For example, when the Labour Party used Westminster secondary legislation to cede 6,000 square miles of Scotland’s sea to England without parliamentary scrutiny.

Garters in a Twist – Craig Murray – 27 October 2015

Negative resolution procedure

Parliament’s control is limited to approving, or rejecting, the instrument as laid before it: it cannot (except in very rare cases) amend or change it.

A motion to annul a statutory instrument is known as a ‘prayer’

Any member of either House can put down a motion that an instrument should be annulled, although in the Commons unless the motion is signed by a large number of Members, or is moved by the official Opposition, it is unlikely to be debated, and in the Lords such a motion is seldom actually voted upon.

Such are the machinations of politicians when it comes to securing their tax fixes.

The North Sea oil and gas industry as a whole contributed £35 billion to the UK Treasury in 2014.

Sadly it’s almost impossible to control [or cure] a politician once they are addicted to tax.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Economics, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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