Dennis Robertson: Westminster’s closed door visit ‘telling’

Alex Salmond. Picture: Getty
Alex Salmond. Picture: Getty

IF ever there was a symbol of the difference between the Scottish and Westminster Governments, Monday’s cabinet meetings in the North East was surely it.

While Westminster’s cabinet flew in for a behind closed doors meeting followed by a quick bout of unsubstantiated scaremongering before rapidly departing, the Scottish cabinet spent its time engaging with the public and discussing the positive difference independent Scotland would make for them.

The difference spoke volumes about the two Governments and once again highlighted David Cameron’s bizarre refusal to debate Scotland’s First Minister. The referendum this year is about where decisions affecting Scotland should be made and it is only right that the heads of the two Governments Scotland will choose between should debate each other – something polls in recent days again confirmed people in Scotland want to happen.

Being just a few miles apart presented an ideal opportunity for this debate to happen, but once again David Cameron refused to take part. Instead, people in Scotland were treated to one of the more bizarre suggestions to emerge from the No campaign’s Project Fear – that Scotland is somehow too small to manage our oil & gas sector.

It’s a claim that nobody in the North East is buying – after all, a look across the North Sea to our Norwegian neighbours shows a smaller country than Scotland not just managing their oil & gas resources, but doing it substantially better than the UK ever has with an oil fund worth a staggering £470 billion.

Westminster’s track record when it comes to the sector has been appallingly poor, with billions of pounds squandered and shock tax raids creating nothing but uncertainty.

A Yes vote will give us the opportunity to do things better. With responsibility for our own oil & gas industry, we can ensure the sector has the stability it needs to invest with confidence and use the natural resources in Scotland’s waters to fully benefit people in Scotland.

That is why the Scottish Government has announced a £10.6 million oil & gas innovation and made clear that an independent Scotland’s Energy Department would be co-headquartered centre in Aberdeen.

Ultimately David Cameron’s decision to bring Scotland’s oil & gas resources to the forefront of the referendum campaign is one he will come to regret. After all, with resources worth £1.5 trillion remaining in the waters off Scotland, isn’t it time people living here got the chance to see the benefits of our own assets?

• Dennis Robertson is the SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire West