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FORMER Chancellor Denis Healey has admitted the Government underplayed the value of Scottish oil in the 1970s.
The Labour peer said figures were massaged to counter the threat of nationalism in the runup to the 1979 devolution referendum.
And he claims Westminster parties are now “worried stiff” about losing oil revenue if Scots vote to break from the UK.
THE former Labour Chancellor, Denis Healey, has admitted his Government played down the value of Scotland’s oil reserves in the 1970s because of the threat of nationalism.
Now Lord Healey of Riddlesden, the Labour peer said tax receipts from oil is the biggest factor behind Westminster opposition to both next year’s and the 1979 independence referendum.
The 95-year-old also claimed the Westminster parties are “worried stiff” about Scots voting Yes in next year’s poll because of the valuable income from the North Sea.
Meanwhile he joined former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson in backing a bid for the UK to quit the European Union.
Lord Healey said the UK would “sufferenormously” withoutthebillions of pounds of tax from North Sea oil.
He said: “I think they [Westminster politicians] are concerned about Scotland taking the oil, I think they are worried stiff about it.
“I think we would suffer enormously if the income from Scottish oil stopped but if the Scots want it [independence], they should have it and we would just need to adjust. But I would think Scotland could survive perfectly well, economically, if it was independent. “Yes, I would think so . . . with the oil.” In 1974 a leading Government economist, Professor Gavin McCrone, wrote a report which stated that Scotland would have had “embarrassingly” large tax surpluses as a result of the North Sea oil boom.
Lord Healey’s Labour Government decided to keep that document under wraps until it was eventually released in 2005.
Reflecting on this time, Lord Healey said: “I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher.
“We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and, really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out any of her policies without that additional five per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.”
Asked if he had considered establishing a sovereign wealth fund with the oil revenues to invest in the country’sfuturewhenhewasinoffice, he said: “It’s true that we should have invested the money in things we needed in Britain and I had thought about an oil fund, but it wasn’t my responsibility by then.”
Lord Healey also said he would now vote to leave the European Union.
He explained: “I can see a lot in favour of coming out of Europe and the thing is that we did keep out of most of the European institutions but we are still interdependent because of the relationship and if we decided not to be part of the EU I think, that in many ways, we would gain from it.
The BBC has come under fire for apparently breaking with convention by allowing a senior figure from the anti-independence campaign Better Together to attack the SNP in air in the middle of the party's Perth conference.
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