Scottish government boasts of North Sea oil and gas sector performance while keeping its eye locked on the European Union. Photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/UPI Photo | License Photo
EDINBURGH, Scotland, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- While keeping its eyes on the European Union, the Scottish government touted the performance of North Sea energy in the era of lower oil prices.
The government said the oil and gas industry is adjusting to a market where oil has hovered in the mid- to upper-$40 range for the better part of a year. Those prices are down about 50 percent from two years ago, though Scotland said North Sea oil and gas production rates are up by around 20 percent from last year.
"Although this remains a difficult time for the industry and its workforce, it is encouraging to note this increase in production as the industry adapts to the current period of low prices," Secretary of the Economy Keith Brown said in a statement.
According to data from 2015-16, the rate of increase in production was the largest annual increase since record-keeping began in 1999. Though the capital spending for that period of $13.5 billion was down by about 17 percent from the previous year, Brown said the regional North Sea oil and gas sector has a "bright future" for Scotland.
Scotland pegged its future during a bid for independence on revenue from oil and gas reserves in the North Sea. The bid failed in 2014 and the government said since that the region's energy sector needs a predictable set of governing policies in order to thrive.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in an address to lawmakers Wednesday called on all parties to support the country remaining in the European Union, even as the British government charts its departure. Michael Russell, the government's minister in charge of negotiating Scotland's trajectory, said that British momentum in the wake of the June referendum to leave the EU has been uncertain at best.
"The message from the U.K. government has been both confused and damaging," he said. "At times it seems as if there is no direction."
Scotland said an independent economy would've been funded by fossil fuels, but powered by renewables. This week, it said it was putting funding forward to help develop what it says may be the first large-scale tidal power operation in the world.