* UK keen to show Scots it cares about industry
* Pledges new industry regulator and licensing changes
* Says changes will safeguard jobs and investment
* Scots to vote on independence on Sept. 18
By Andrew Osborn
LONDON, Feb 24 The British government said on
Monday it would enact sweeping measures to make it easier to
unlock hard-to-extract North Sea gas and billions of barrels of
oil as it tries to persuade Scotland to remain part of the
The announcement, timed to coincide with Prime Minister
David Cameron's first full cabinet meeting in Scotland, had
multiple aims: to boost the oil and gas industry, to shore up
tax revenues, to cut dependence on energy imports, and to
persuade Scots to stay in the UK.
Scots will vote on whether to end their 307-year-old union
with England on Sept. 18 and the future of the small country's
oil and gas industry has featured heavily in a campaign in which
pro-independence nationalists are trailing.
The North Sea is thought to contain billions of barrels of
hard-to-reach oil, but with many platforms and pipelines coming
to the end of their working lives, time is running out to get at
The measures the government said it would adopt and
fast-track were all recommended in a report drawn up by Ian
Wood, former chairman of oil services company Wood Group,
, on maximising recovery of oil and gas from Britain's
The government said the changes could be worth up to 200
billion pounds ($333.74 billion)in the next two decades and
allow the industry to recover 3-4 billion more barrels of oil
than would otherwise have been produced.
Measures to be adopted include the creation of a new
independent industry regulator and a decision to award
production licences on the basis of recovering the maximum
amount of oil from UK waters as a whole rather than just each
individual licence block.
The government also pledged to cut red tape and better share
infrastructure and geophysical information.
Cameron, who is due on Monday to hold his first full cabinet
meeting in Scotland in Aberdeen, the heart of the UK oil
industry, said Britain's unity enabled it to maximise the
benefits of Scotland's North Sea oil and gas.
"I promise we will continue to use the UK's broad shoulders
to invest in this vital industry so we can attract businesses,
create jobs, develop new skills in our young people and ensure
we can compete in the global race," he said in a statement.
Ed Davey, the energy minister, said the measures were
designed to address what he called "unprecedented challenges",
noting that tax revenues for 2012/13 were over 40 percent lower
than the year before.
But he said Scotland, as part of the UK, was protected from
such revenue falls and shielded from oil price volatility that
he said could dramatically affect a small country's budget.
Despite the official government forecaster predicting lower
revenues in the next three years, he said:
"Instead of needing to cut spending the Scottish Government
will see its budget rise by more than 300 million pounds.
Scotland benefits as part of the UK from being able to pool
The oil and gas industry employed 450,000 people in the UK
and should do so for years to come, he added.
Angus Robertson, a pro-independence lawmaker from the
Scottish National Party, said his expectations ahead of the
government's Scottish cabinet meeting were low.
"Think that after first UK Cabinet visit to north of
Scotland since the 1920s there'll be a thank you for the oil and
whisky tax billions?" he asked on Twitter.